Thursday, April 12, 2007

And so he goes 

From Scott Johnson's observation of Kurt Vonnegut's passing:
The man met the moment with Slauhghterhouse-Five in 1969 and Vonnegut became a countercultural celebrity without any discernible discomfort. Indeed, he encouraged acolytes like me in our fatuity, our grandiosity, our irresponsibility.

From an adult perspective, one can see that the novels are full of cheap irony, insufferable sentimentality, paper thin characters, and forgettable plots. If Vonnegut's novels have made it into the high school curriculum, ... pity the poor high school student who thinks that this is what literature is all about.

Like Scott I read lots of Vonnegut in my youth, though being younger than Scott means Breakfast of Champions was my plunge rather than S5.

I can hardly think of the latter without pleasant visions of Valerie Perrine. But aside that there's little I can recommend of Vonnegut any more. S5 wasn't a very good movie, and the others simply stunk. I so wanted to like Bluebeard in which he has a fake autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, but just read the excerpt of it from Amazon and ask, is this really want literature is all about? Of course not.

I remember as much his son Mark's book Eden Express where the son goes through manic depression and drugs (see for example this excerpt.) He's come out the other side a doctor, seems quite normal. For some reason the book made an impression on me as being more relevant to my own experiences than the Carlos Castaneda novels that were the rage in the mid-1970s. In some ways the son lived the life the father encouraged, slipped the bonds of reason and through his own strength found his way back. I don't know that it had any effect on the father, though -- and that seems sad.