And So It Goes
Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. I remember, at age 13, sucking down his books as fast as I could buy them, dimestore paperbacks I carried to school so I could sneak in a little reading between classes. I was the only one in my junior high school running around with Vonnegut novels; none of my classmates had any idea who he was. To me, it didn’t matter that not everything in the books was understandable to a thirteen-year-old girl’s mind. Something about his approach to storytelling, the way he wove together literary writing with the yee-hah hippie freakiness of sci-fi, really spoke to me. He always denied that his work was science fiction because being so categorized means, for a writer, not being taken seriously by the literary lions. People love to pigeonhole artists, and Mr. Vonnegut was not one to submit to being pigeonholed. Knowing a thing or two about being pigeonholed myself, I have great sympathy for the stance he took.
Well, Kurt Vonnegut was a literary lion. He knew how to take the literary novel, twist it and tweak it and knead it together with all the sci-fi it could handle until something truly special, something different, emerged. I love the way he rode that line. He influenced my own work in a way that I didn’t realize until quite recently.
I also love this. I found this quotation from Mr. Vonnegut in an article in the November/December 2006 issue of Pages magazine. Forgive me for not citing the title of the article–I tore out the quotation and saved it, but not the whole thing. If this doesn’t get you moving, nothing will:
“Well, I tell everybody to practice some art, no matter how badly or how well. It doesn’t matter. It’s the experience of becoming, of creating, that truly matters. It is as important as sex or food. It’s a tragedy to me that our schools have cut art out of the curriculum because it’s not a way to make a living. Well, it’s not a way to make a living; it’s a way to become, to find out what you are, what you can do, what’s inside of you. The big payoff is the actual act of creating. Anything that happens after that is merely an anticlimax.”
Back to riding my own line. Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut, and goodnight.
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