19 April 2007

Those Who Knew Them: Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

We regret the tardiness of the following personal tribute to the late science fiction writer. Unfortunately its author, a test pilot and native of the planet Tralfamadore who knew the author well, exists in all time periods at once and decided to submit his piece to us in 1892. Having now managed to unearth it from among a pile of discarded copies of Punch, a collection of top hats and several bottles of Josiah Ackerthwaite's patented balsam, we are pleased to publish it here.

Kurt Vonnegut was an author, more or less. He was one of those people who turn facts into something more than fiction and fiction into something a lot like fact. When we met he wasn't at all old, except for his eyes which had seen too much. He called himself Billy Pilgrim. He called himself Kilgore Trout. You can never trust authors. Once he said he ran a Saab dealership without telling Saab themselves. It made him bankrupt. He said it cost him the Nobel Prize. He said a lot of things like that.

In the war, the big war, the one where you Earthlings tried to blow Europe into nothingness and your society into nowhere, he was a soldier. He fought against the Germans, which was funny because his family was German-American. That's the sort of irony aliens who live in all times at once can appreciate. Kurt or Billy or whoever wasn't trained very well for war or for German snow. He was captured and locked up. That's when he got unstuck in time.

He spent some time with us in our zoo. He was about as happy there as he was on Earth. We locked him up with Montana Wildhack, a motion picture star. She had great breasts and Billy Pilgrim had a tremendous wang. Authors get to write things that way, it's part of the fun.

In Germany, Kurt Vonnegut saw the bombing of Dresden from the wrong side. He saw thousands upon thousands of people killed in just two nights by other people who thought they were fighting evil. It changed him. He wrote Slaughterhouse 5 about what happened and people liked it. Most every English student in the United States had to read it. Students liked Slaughterhouse 5 because it had lots of short sentences and was kind of like science fiction. Professors liked it because it told an important story and even Professors of English like short sentences now and again.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote other books too. Some were great, some not so good. For a time he was a humanist but then he changed his mind. For a while he went about defending Intelligent Design, which just goes to prove that even novelists can make mistakes. He became a kind of conscience for a certain type of American. After Dresden he didn't have much time for war, which just goes to prove that even novelists can get things right. Someone named an asteroid after him, which was nice.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead now. So it goes.

1 Comment:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Love the "short sentebces" bit! - That must be how to get published, then!