Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Would Vonnegut Do?

I am a big fan of Vonnegut. The author known as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a writer who would blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. I was introduced to him as Slaughterhouse Five was required reading in my Freshman English class at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Recently I listened to Slaughterhouse Five and the Kurt Vonnegut Jr. autobiography on audio CDs. His life and achievements are remarkable.     

Vonnegut was a WWII veteran, a prisoner of war and survivor of the fire bombings at Dresden, Germany all in his early 20s, as a young man. The bombing of Dresden by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) between February 13 and February 15 in 1945 remains a controversial Allied action of the Western European theatre of war.  

After the war he became a corporate public relations man. By the mid-1950s, on the verge of abandoning writing, Vonnegut was offered a teaching job at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. While he was there, Cat's Cradle became a best-seller, and he began Slaughterhouse-Five (now considered one of the best American novels of the 20th century).

Vonnegut was part of the WWII generation but it was about five years after it was originally published when I was reading Slaughterhouse Five for the first time. The United States was withdrawing from Viet Nam. Vonnegut wrote: “And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.”   

 Vonnegut said, “Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.” He died in 2007 and his books remain enormously popular on college campuses. Slaughterhouse Five will always be a favorite of mine. Thanks Kurt. So it goes.   

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