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Vonnegut

DE Gates's memorial of memento of KV below (above?) reminds me of what I intended at first to say about him and his writings.  In all the sumations of the pundits about his influence on a generation, telling uncomfortable truths, being a nihilist or a humanist or a cornpone philosopher or a cranky geezer, there really was very little about him and his work considered aesthetically, that is as art rather than commentary or propaganda or engagement or philosophy.  I was least impressed by those aspects of  his writing, and stopped reading it when they predominated (sometime after "Breakfast of Champions" I guess.)  The artfulness of "Cat's Cradle" and "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" and "Mother Night" could always be seen as secondary to the worldview, and go unnoticed -- ars celare artem -- but (maybe only because I was pondering the problems of a professon I hadn't yet made or joined) they seemed uppermost to me.  I still insist students read "Cat's Cradle" if they want to find out how to shape a story that is in effect over when it starts -- how to arrange the elements of a story that even its narrator knows the ending of.  Even more artful is how many of the elements that are part of the conclusion that is built toward -- ice-9, Bokononism -- are remote from the readers experience.  There's a wonderful (nihilistic?) circularity, or ring shape, to several of the novels, a circualrity hidden in the "random" way the information in them is assembled for the reader.  I don't suppose anyone would see a resemblance between his books and mine, but the way he can start up ten different threads of narrative that only gradually show themselves to be parts of the same story is something I think I tried to copy from him.  And of course aesthetic circularity, "random" narrative effects, unresolvable oppositions as story engines -- all these are "statements" or suggest "worldviews" too.  It was in a Vonnegut book that I first read that great humanist/atheist/dunnoist paradox I live by:  The universe is a safe with a combination lock, and the combination of the lock is locked inside the safe. 

Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
vakratunda
Apr. 14th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
Riddle Me This
If you and he share the same worldview, why does he strike me as such a terrible whiner and you do not?

Epicureans. You guys are epicureans. Along with Asimov, Mencken, Ayn Rand and James Randi.

Sort of a mixed group.





.
nancylebov
Apr. 14th, 2007 03:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Riddle Me This
Perhaps because Vonnegut kept talking about how much it all hurts (with humor, weirdness, and kindness as only mildly effective anodynes), while crowleycrow doesn't? Or if he does, I haven't noticed it, so he might be more subtle.

What do you mean by epicureans?
This Worldview - vakratunda - Apr. 14th, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Everyone Dies - vakratunda - Apr. 14th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
I'll Agree With That - vakratunda - Apr. 14th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Dresden - (Anonymous) - Apr. 14th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Curtis And The AAC - vakratunda - Apr. 14th, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Dresden - crowleycrow - Apr. 15th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: whir - negothick - Apr. 16th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: whir - (Anonymous) - Apr. 16th, 2007 11:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This Worldview - crowleycrow - Apr. 15th, 2007 01:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vakratunda - Apr. 15th, 2007 01:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nancylebov - Apr. 15th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This Worldview - (Anonymous) - Apr. 16th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
nancylebov
Apr. 14th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing out Vonnegut's aesthetic skill.

Is this the DE Gates piece you mentioned? It's interesting that (at least to me) links don't exactly have a spacial direction. The article is just on the other side of a click, or barely findable in a web of memory.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 14th, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
David Gates x 2
Actually, no. I posted a reply to John's IN MEMORIAM thread, on 4-12. I write mysteries under the name David Edgerley Gates; this other David Gates is a Newsweek staff writer, and author of the novel "Jernigan."
DE Gates
PS---An understandable confusion, and a sometime source of irritation to me.
Re: David Gates x 2 - (Anonymous) - Apr. 14th, 2007 09:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
anselmo_b
Apr. 14th, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
I was disgusted by the note they had on Vonnegut's dead at the online version of "Der Spiegel". They say that though he was prolific he remained a one-book author. They quote him saying that he was bombed by all air forces but the German, and then go on about Dresden for the length of a full column. Maybe that shows more clearly where the problem probably lies: An author of any value who ventures outside the ivory tower is immediately idolized and set upon the standards of every group that presumes him to be supportive of its ideals. I wholly agree with your assessment and thus, as a foreigner and member of a later generation, I feel lucky to have been able to read Vonnegut from a distance.
womzilla
Apr. 14th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
There's a lot of Vonnegut that I haven't re-read since my first burst of discovery in my teens*, before I really learned how to read. As a result, much of the writerly artfulness of his novels is something I've only recognized in retrospect, and I really should take his departure as an excuse to rediscover him.

But yes, the chaotic artistry of Cat's Cradle is breathtaking.

*I'm sure that it's possible to discover Vonnegut when one is not a teenager, but it's hard to see how...
mattboggan
Apr. 16th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
"*I'm sure that it's possible to discover Vonnegut when one is not a teenager, but it's hard to see how..."

Maybe that's because I'm French (or maybe not) but the name Vonnegut doesn't mean anything to me. reading what you say about him incites me to read it. I'm almost 30. Is it too late? I surely hope not.

What book would you point out as a good beginning to discover him? Obviously, one of the early ones (judging from Mr Crowley's post). Cat's Craddle seems to be his "chef d'oeuvre."
(no subject) - womzilla - Apr. 24th, 2007 11:28 am (UTC) - Expand
proximoception
Apr. 14th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
Good thing everything's here in the safe with us.
marconiplein
Apr. 14th, 2007 08:57 pm (UTC)
That is the first time ever picked up on someone referring to writing as "engagement." I really like that. I know that Vonnegut engaged my sensibilities and my imagination.
crowleycrow
Apr. 15th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
Actually "engaged" means or used to mean having a strong political bent, almost always left, and believing it should shape your writing. Your meaning is better but not usual.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 15th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
"The universe is a safe with a combination lock, and the combination of the lock is locked inside the safe."

I thought Pascal said that. :-)

R. Cunningham
mattboggan
Apr. 16th, 2007 08:12 am (UTC)
Chorus Movies?
"I don't suppose anyone would see a resemblance between his books and mine, but the way he can start up ten different threads of narrative that only gradually show themselves to be parts of the same story is something I think I tried to copy from him."

Something tilted within me at the reading of this sentence.

I'm curious --

As one who have copied entire passages of Little, Big in order to get pregnant with the mountain stream musicality of your style and who plans (but have yet to find the time to do so) to take notes on how you use time and narration in Little, Big, to know if you would describe your narrative style (as you describe it above) as a "chorus style," much like those movies who show a single story from the point of view of different characters that, at first, show very little common ground ("Magnolia" and "Crash" being two exemples that spring to mind now).
crowleycrow
Apr. 16th, 2007 11:27 am (UTC)
Re: Chorus Movies?
If you mean polyphonic (like 15th c. choral music) I'd probably say yes, though I don't know enough about music to know if the analogy is proper. I know that the sensation of a multitude of voices layering, harmonizing, drifting apart, musing on one another and coming together in a big Amen is what moves me in that music, and what often aim for.
Re: Chorus Movies? - (Anonymous) - Apr. 16th, 2007 11:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Chorus Movies? - mattboggan - Apr. 16th, 2007 11:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Chorus Movies? - anselmo_b - Apr. 17th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
hissilliness
Apr. 16th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
On Vonnegut's æsthetics, I particularly liked this eulogy from a friend of mine:

I have especially loved the way he writes as though he were describing the world to an especially precocious five-year-old. If I were Vonnegut, I might explain, Gravity's this thing that makes other things go down. Apples fall down from trees. Houses fall down. Gravity pulls my breasts down more every year. It keeps us all from floating away from everything we love. Kurt Vonnegut has died, and he'll never get up again, and a lot of us are going to miss him like crazy.
(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
Pharmacy: meridia
MESSAGE
(Anonymous)
Jun. 29th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)
Let's get acquainted My name is Tomas!
Hi!
My name is Tomas!



( 35 comments — Leave a comment )