April 12, 2007
So It Goes
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes'.
Posted by b on April 12, 2007 at 02:34 AM | Permalink
Kurt Vonnegut was one of those people who could get me to want to rejoin the human race.
Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Apr 12, 2007 3:12:12 AM | 1
"America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.... It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Telling it straight to the very end...
God bless, Kurt. Thanks for everything.
Thank god he's in heavy now, the magnificent bastard!
Here's another American icon imo...
talk at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 3
I've been writing for nearly 40 years. I've been a news reporter, a magazine writer and editor, and written a thousand puff pieces for celebrities if every imaginable sort. And now, at this late age, I found myself back in my home town writing about the poor and working poor folks I grew up with. Most of what I write is about class issues in America -- mainly because being born in lower class poverty leaves a person with a sense of insecurity and class awareness that remains for a life time, regardless of one's later success.
Along the way I think I've learned a little about the subject. Enough that I finally got up enough confidence to write a book about America's cruelest and most strictly enforced national lie -- that we are a classless society. That nearly everyone is middle class or can be if they try.
Here's a fact that is so absurd you don't know whether to laugh or cry: Nearly 40% of households surveyed making less than $30,000 a year believe they are in the top 10% of Americans when it comes to income! In a similar, though more extreme national delusion, millions of North Koreans eating wild grass soup during the winter under Kim Jong-Il, believe they live in the richest nation on earth, and that America wants to attack them out of jealousy. Such are the results of successful propaganda....
Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 12, 2007 3:20:14 AM | 2
lovely obit and connection uncle. whats missing so often aka the lewitt sculpture, is a simple respect for the full dimension of human experience by those lacking that dimension. picasso once said "i dont paint what i think, but what i know". the vicarious thrive on perverting the visceral to amuse the void in their humanity. pissants by comparison.
Posted by: anna missed | Apr 12, 2007 5:03:51 AM | 3
Vonnegut's last book, THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, is a must-read. It was a delight.
He will be sorely missed.
Posted by: hopping madbunny | Apr 12, 2007 6:23:21 AM | 4
Still fine in so many moments. Yes, so it goes.
Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Apr 12, 2007 7:58:34 AM | 5
Cat's Cradle is one of my favorite books.
And I have the CD - of the Ice 9 calypsos!
Vonnegut, like JG Ballard, came through WW2 deeply, deeply scathed.
And for the rest of his life he never allowed us to forget what a shitty waste of time blowing each other up is.
RIP Vonnegut, as well as Kilgore, Rosewater, Billy...
Posted by: Dismal Science | Apr 12, 2007 9:02:51 AM | 6
Kurt Vonnegut is gone, on a perfectly lovely morning.
It's like hearing that the the gypsy at the outskirts of town took off. That the one person who kept the mojo straight, who always knew where it was at, that the one who saw things -- has left town.
But then, anyone who keeps the mojo straight knows a secret -- that the mojo is never in one place, that it is not something one person made, that the mojo is just another word for us, all of us, all at once, present and accounted for, live like a snake, all over the world.
What a species. We.
Who do any damned thing we want to do, no matter how huge, no matter how mean. All over the world.
Kurt could never take his eyes off the mojo, he lived by the mojo, and he'd point you straight at it whenever you stopped to wonder where it's at.
Living being a series of days that are a series of minutes and moments; you are either here, or you are elsewhere. If you are here by the minute and moment, you are privy to the mojo, and it is a fascinating way to live. All those minds, all those hearts, all those souls, sensible, accessible. Present.
Here on this lovely morning, we have us, all of us. We have all we ever had, and all we will ever have.
Kurt has moved on, on a perfectly lovely morning.
And the mojo is yours.
Posted by: Antifa | Apr 12, 2007 9:51:43 AM | 7
Posted by: slothrop | Apr 12, 2007 11:18:15 AM | 8
So sad, today, upon getting this news. So it goes. So it goes.
Posted by: Pyrrho | Apr 12, 2007 11:48:48 AM | 9
in the green zone they have begun to see what the beginning of a tet offensive might look like - si it is anunusual morning for others
vonnegut was both an interesting writer & a good man whose satire of the bodypolitic of the u s was surpassed by an ever increasing grotesque day-to-day reality
Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 12, 2007 1:57:11 PM | 10
I read Player Piano in my teens, I didn't really think it was that funny until the part where the management staff goes on the weekend retreat, and everyone has to forget about the boss-underling relationship.
Wearing nametags that say "Call me Bill or pay me $5" -- the idea was to get away from calling superiors "Mr. Smith" or whatever.
A good introduction to the management style that brought us "Quality circles" and mission statements. As my friend Brian used to say, wagging his finger at me, "you're thinking again ... you're not paid to think. Don't think!"
I saw Vonnegut on the tv, he was lecturing students about storytelling. In fact, he and the students were sitting on cushions in a group, not a formal lecture theater. Probably mid-70s or so. Personable, calm, his thesis was that mankind evolved in tribes, groups of say 50 or a hundred people, so we also evolved skill sets that matched that size of population: one in every 50 people or so is a good storyteller and would gain recognition of that fact. They could "make a good living" telling stories.
In today's world we have a "tribe" of some 3 or four hundred million English-speakers, but a hard-wired attention-space for just one or two storytellers, and the rest are SOL. Since he was speaking to what must have been a writer's workshop, this insight seems unique, funny and sad at the same time.
One time I went out to get some lunch, leaving the building at 49th and Second Avenue in Manhattan where I worked. As I crossed the plaza, I walked past a concrete bench where Vonnegut sat smoking and looking out at the avenue.
All the way to the deli and back I debated what I should do -- one of my co-workers was an avid fan and we had recently talked about some of the novels. On the other hand, I had read recently that he was in a slump, this was about 1995. I considered stopping to say hello, having a chat, maybe inviting him to come in and meet my friend. On the other hand, maybe he was cooking up another story and needed to be left alone. But why would he go out into the city if he didn't want to be disturbed?
Anyway, when I returned he was still there, so as I walked past I nervously said, "good afternoon, sir," and walked on.
Very interesting to read, his books aren't really about what they seem to be about -- Breakfast of Champions I think is actually about depression and schizophrenia.
Posted by: jonku | Apr 12, 2007 6:38:33 PM | 11
there is something gentle yet hard in vonnegut - something he shares with the best of modern american literature from hawthorne to hart crane
& the best of it is quite, quite mad - in the sense that the ghost of robert lowell is there from the 18th century & as each century has passed it has got madder & madder yet more clear, more precise & much more representative of the multitudes in the i
tho that is not true with much written by the baby boom generation onwards - there is such thinness - much mimicking of madness yet clearly defined marketing - the james frey scandal - an elucidation of an elemental impulse rather than an exception
vonnegut in a lot of ways mirrors the work of the mexican carlos fuentes - that is its abstraction is based on an even more abstracted & dissassociated civil society - in its way a kind of realism the realism of dos passos & dreiser
but if we are to be honest the great, the really great of the 20th century wept at what we are & where we are going. the best of them wept & kept on weeping whether its sister carrie, manhattan transfer or breakfast of champions
the entirety of most poetry from the middle east for example is nothing other than tears - the poetry of adonis is weeping at its highest level
the writing of european poetry ended with the contempt of language held by perhaps the last century's greatest poet, paul celan - he did not use the german language for nothing - he used the masters tounge to destroy the symbolic order of the master & all who have followed him have been shadows
that other great poet of the century vladimir mayakovsky was also a weeper, an epic weeper but it was rooted in a faith in men(perhaps misplaced) but i want to hold on to the writers like him because they are the possessors & transmutators of beauty that demand an engagement with life
Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 12, 2007 7:03:49 PM | 12
".... but i want to hold on to the writers like him because they are the possessors & transmutators of beauty that demand an engagement with life"
Indeed r'giap, it is the lack of such that is epidemic in so much art, especially visual art. Which is what struck me on the Sol Lewitt post. Along with the irony such a piece should represent or commemorate the holocaust. Lewitts work (like much minimal art) is intentionally predicated upon a phenomenology reduced and dependent upon random error as expression and perceptual process reflected back as content. Its strange such work by design to be devoid of "engagement with life" would be chosen to represent life lived and tragically extinguished. Its as if the coffin, rather than the person is being remembered.
Posted by: anna missed | Apr 12, 2007 9:24:52 PM | 13
Thank you Antifa, et al, wise words indeed.
Wilson, Ballard, Vonnegut, that completes the law of threes (if one is
to believe in such) too bad for Humanity. So it goes...
Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 12, 2007 10:02:17 PM | 14
Well put, r'giap
Posted by: Theodor | Apr 13, 2007 2:58:33 AM | 15
great to see you here again - amité et force
Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 13, 2007 10:09:29 AM | 16
A PRAYER FOR THE DYING (cat's cradle)
God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, ‘Sit up!’
‘See all I’ve made,’ said God, ‘the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.’
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God!
Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn’t have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor.
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
good night kurt, thank you for the honor
Posted by: annie | Apr 13, 2007 1:07:28 PM | 17
Look! No damn cat, no damn cradle!
Posted by: ralphieboy | Apr 14, 2007 2:04:19 AM | 18