What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 12, 2007


Listen: Kurt Vonnegut has died.

A life long humanist, he's is up in heaven now. So it goes.

Listen: Like many university students at the time, I devoured whatever Kurt Vonnegut book I could find. I remember when, as a freshman music major at the University of Connecticut in 1981, I found a paperback copy of Slaugherhouse Five. It took me a couple of days and a few skipped music theory classes (sorry, Doctor Somer) but I made it through the book pretty quickly.

I can remember being absolutely crushed by the last page of the book - after reading about the Trefalmadorians, the meaningless devastation of the firebombing of Dresden, of the death of Edgar Derby, and so on, I got to the part where Billy Pilgrim (who's unstuck in time) wanders out onto the ash heap that once was Dresden and hears a bird go, "Poo-tee weet?"

I can remember putting the book down and finding it very necessary to go for a long long walk. So it goes.

Listen: He wrote in Breakfast of Champions that "we are healthy only to the extent our ideas are humane" and when one of the characters that book, Kilgore Trout, was asked about the meaning of life his response was:
To be
the eyes
and ears
and conscience
of the Creator of the Universe,
you fool.
This is also from Breakfast of Champtions:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things.

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.

So it goes.


r said...

What's strange about this personally is that I just picked up Slaughter House Five and started reading it yesterday.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Tiger gotta hunt, bird gotta fly, man gotta sit and wonder why why why.

Tiger gotta sleep, bird gotta land, man gotta tell himself he understand.

Vaya con dios, Kurt.