Kurt Vonnegut is one of those writers who create books I am always unsure of. Usually when I finish something by Vonnegut, I have to sit back and marvel at his genius. He is also one of those writers I am scared of. Part of me thinks that while I enjoy his writing, I don't get it the way I am supposed to, and that perhaps I am not smart enough to fully "get" his genius.
However, I love him and his writing. I have not read as many Vonnegut titles as I would like, but whenever I do, I am always telling myself, "you need to read MORE of him." And I am sure that when I finish this, I will say that again.
I just love him and his writing style.
I was a senior in college when he passed away. But I seem to remember a few months earlier an appearance he made on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He was a funny old man, and somewhat cynical. He has very strong liberal views, but I really liked him. I liked what he had to say and how he said it. He said whatever popped into his head and didn't regret it.
Because he was speaking truth and that truth came from a very deep and private part of himself. I admire that.
I am also thinking about my first experience with his work-when I read the short story "Harrison Bergeron" in ninth grade. That story has haunted me for years. I even created a unit on it during my student teaching (I never taught that unit, however), and I would love the opportunity to share the power of that story with teenagers one day.
I also remember reading Cat's Cradle in eleventh grade and thinking that this man must be slightly crazy, but I was awed at the rubbing of feet in his religion: Bokonism.
I also remember staying up late one night reading A Man Without a Country, the only piece of semi-autobiographical work he ever published, and also, one of his last pieces. Up until that point, I never really marked favorite passages in my books. But I spent all night laughing at lines and marking pages with Post-its because I was in awe of his raw honesty. I think I truly fell in love with Vonnegut that night.
From the people I have talked to, Vonnegut is one of those writers you either love or you hate. There is no middle ground. He writes things that are meant to push your boundaries and make you feel uncomfortable. And since many of his great works, like Slaughterhouse-Five were written so long ago, the fact that they still make readers feel uncomfortable is a testament to their power and Vonnegut's voice.
And I love Slaughterhouse-Five and all of its kooky and weird situations. I love the flashes of time and the weaving narrative. I love that it is an anti-war novel that doesn't preach, but shows. And I love that every time I read it I get surprised by the few pictures included....and the deep insight of a man who knew that what he was writing was powerful.
So while I may not consider myself smart enough to catch every piece of sly humor Vonnegut throws my way, I am smart enough to understand the power of this novel. I hope I can capture that this time as well.