Saturday, April 14, 2007


Kurt Vonnegut died this week. Though I hadn't read one of his novels in about 25 years, I felt a pang of sadness and nostalgia when I heard he passed away. Along with many other adolescents in the late 1970s, his funny, thoughtful and imaginative books meant a lot to me at a crucial time in my life. Reading Vonnegut was kind of a transition from the world of childhood into another more complex, "grown-up" world. I can still remember the subversive thrill of reading Breakfast of Champions in the 8th grade. He was one of the voices that told me it was okay to be different, to be creative, and to be a rebel if necessary, especially for the good of humankind.

My favorite Vonnegut moment didn't take place in any of his books, though, but out on the streets. I was probably a senior in high school, and I was driving one morning to my job at a supermarket. Near the interstate, off by itself on a plot of land, a brand new, soulless glass office building had been constructed. For some reason it sat empty for what seemed like months. That morning, however, there was a change. During the night, someone, somehow, had left an enormous message across the top of the building, each letter the size of a large window:


Kilgore Trout was one of Vonnegut's recurring and most popular characters. For a young, bewildered, rebellious teenager, who felt like society was as cold and empty as that glass office building, those giant letters seemed like a great blow for the sake of humanity. I laughed and laughed and laughed. The best part was that the message stayed up there for a long time. And it brought a smile to my face every time I drove by. Just as it brings a smile to me all these years down the road.

Go in peace, Mr. Vonnegut. Thanks to you, Kilgore Trout still lives.

The Guardian has a nice obiturary for Vonnegut.

From another Guardian article: "Vonnegut's own heroes had been Jesus, Abraham Lincoln and Eugene Debs, the labour leader who stood several times for US president as candidate of the Socialist Party of America."

The last thing I probably read by Vonnegut was his humorous and helpful essay on writing: How To Write with Style. It's short and worth reading.


Liam said...

I love the Kilgore Trout story. It is sad to see Vonnegut's passing. So it goes.

crystal said...

Slaughterhouse-Five is the book of his I remember the most, maybe because I also saw the movie. But the Sirens of Titan was also good.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I followed your link from Jeff's page. You must be a fellow guitarist. I am into classical guitar and like Segovia as well, and in fact, thank you for the youtube link, which I promptly stole. I used it for my link to a prayer circle (one of thousands I'm sure) for VTech.

All the Best,


cowboyangel said...


How was the movie of Slaughterhouse Five? I've always wondered. I can't remember if I read Sirens of Titan.


Yes, so it goes.

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for visiting. Are you really in Winnipeg? Do I have an international visitor? I'll have to remember to give Jeff a discount.

Actually, I'm not a guitarist. Just a lover of guitar music.

Glad you stole the youtube video. I think it's wonderful to have a video of Segovia. There were a couple of others on YouTube, too.

And I'm touched that you used it for your prayer circle for the students at Virginia Tech. I work on a campus and was really upset by the events today. Can't even begin to express my sorrow and anger.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cowboy,

I'm not Canadian, the Winnipeg is taken from the Winnipeg Statement which is a progressive catholic satement made by the canadian catholic bishops in response to Humanae Vitae. If you're interested in that sort of thing there is a link to it on my blog.

Perhaps I should change that, it definitely causes confusion!

Glad to hear there are non-guitarist segovia fans out there too.

All the Best,


crystal said...

Will, I wrote something about the movie on my blog.

Jeff said...

Hey William,

I had to read Slaughter-House Five for my English class in High School, and I wan't much of a fan, although I admit it did sensitize me to the horrific Dresden bombing.

Nice tribute to Vonnegut.