My Writers: Kurt Vonnegut


As I sheepishly acknowledged in the last installment of this series, I didn’t discover Kurt Vonnegut when I probably should have. I’m not sure where he settles into the canon right this moment, but Vonnnegut was a staple of high school English courses when I was going through that particular hellish passage of educational servitude. He showed up on no assignment lists at the school I went to, though. And since my taste for recreational reading was generally a little more proudly juvenile or at least distinctly less-than-challenging. Like Sam Weir, my ill-advised, kneejerk reaction to reading something that was likely to be assigned, even elsewhere, was a lot of moaning. My dumb attitude prevented me from finding my way to a lot of great writing.

High on that list of exceptional writers is Vonnegut. In fact, I think it was several years later before I read any Vonnegut, at least at length, when a person I like a great deal finally broke down my defenses. I received a copy of Mother Night in the mail after we’d seen director Keith Gordon’s very fine film adaption at the Chicago International Film Festival. She apparently thought–quite correctly–that I needed to further my education. Of course, the book was excellent. It not only boasted an ingenious plot and sharp, incisive writing, but Vonnegut elegantly threaded in philosophical musing in a manner that was never intrusive. Indeed, it’s such a central part of his appeal that entire wildly popular lists can be generated through artfully selective culling of his writings.

Since confessions seem to be integral to my discussions of Vonnegut, I’ll note that my belated epiphany about his excellence didn’t turn my into a completist about his works. As much as I admire his work, I’m still woefully under-read when it comes to his bibliography. There’s just so many books on the “to read” pile and it grows larger every day, definitely a rate that exceeds my pace of consumption. In a weird way, my extreme affection for his writing despite the relative lack of thoroughness on my part makes the connection feel more powerful to me. It’s not obsession but admiration. And I guess part of the appeal is that I know he’s always out there. The man may be gone, but there’s a wealth of him to be had when I’m ready for it. So it goes.

An Introduction
Margaret Atwood
Anne Tyler
Michael Chabon
Ian McEwan
Don DeLillo
Stephen King
John Steinbeck
Donna Tartt
Jonathan Lethem
Bradley Denton
Zadie Smith
Nick Hornby

22 thoughts on “My Writers: Kurt Vonnegut

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