Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

The Hill pays its respects to Kurt Vonnegut, who passed away yesterday at age 84.

Vonnegut was one of the finest authors of the 20th Century, winning worldwide acclaim for works including Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle. Most of his writing could best be classified as science fiction, but his humanist worldview was frequently suffused throughout his work.

Vonnegut was also one of the good guys. Outspoken in his humanist beliefs, his political viewpoint was also influenced by socialist leaders such as Eugene Debs. In recent years, he was a frequent critic of George W. Bush and the Middle East war.

I admit to not having read much of Vonnegut's work. I attempted to read Slaughterhouse-Five during my high school days, but couldn't finish it - that book requires an adult viewpoint to understand it fully. Nevertheless, I found the experience intimidating enough that I never attempted any of his other novels, although I enjoyed some of the magazine pieces he wrote in later years. Perhaps this would be a good time to reacquaint myself with Vonnegut's writing, maybe the next time I see one of his books at the thrift shop or used bookstore.

In his later years, Vonnegut was a frequent contributor to In These Times. That magazine currently has online a compilation of his work for them - a must for any Vonnegut fan. They plan a further memorial to Vonnegut's life and career in future days.