April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

John Updike aptly wrote of the author of Slaughterhouse Five: "There is in Vonnegut a fine disdain of the merely personal." His works "have a pre-sexual, pre-social freshness; he worries about the sort of things - the future, injustice, science, destiny - that twelve-year old boys worry about."

Updike, who devoted his stupendous literary mastery to memorializing exurban adultery, could have used a little of Vonnegut's boyish disdain for sex. In this, Vonnegut resembled Mark Twain, whose best books -- Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and the first half of his memoir Life on the Mississippi -- reflect an innocent youthfulness. While Twain found his one great topic -- the Mississippi -- Vonnegut had his -- Dresden -- thrust upon him.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen, brother. Little boys are just incipient young men. All the programming is there for adult male virtu - at least in many boys.

Adolescence is a temporary mating foray, a time to get laid and establish oneself. For a man to become stuck in a permanent masturbatory fantasy or, worse - obsessing about "relationships" and extra-marital affairs, is spiritual sickness.

Thinking about social engagements and sexual relationships is what women do best. Most men respect this feminine prerogative, so that women can respect their male prerogatives to think about the future, justice, honor, all that stuff.

tommy said...

Vonnegut will be missed.

Anonymous said...

For a man to become stuck in a permanent masturbatory fantasy or, worse - obsessing about "relationships" and extra-marital affairs, is spiritual sickness.


Spot-on.

Wall said...

Steve,

Life on the Mississippi is on the short list of my favorite books of all time. Some of Vonneguts' stories, perhaps in the collection that includes "Welcome to the Monkey House" include such topics such as masturbation and sexual congress with animals. Oh well, it can be argued that the little twisted glimpses into the sexually bizarre are seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old.

Billy Pilgrim in "Slaughterhouse FIve" seems more like an adolescent or a naif, instead of a combat soldier and POW.

One final note on Twain, "Roughing It", and "The Innocents Abroad" were good reads, back in the days when TV consisted of the three networks and TBS...

Wall

joshrandall said...

In high school,we had different levels,or tracks. The upper track didnt read Vonnegut,I guess it wasnt classy enough for us. The(slightly)lower track DID read Kurt,usually "Slaughter-House 5". My pal dave loved SH5,and raved about it--maybe cuz he was half german? It seemed like a book that boys took to strongly. And me? Well,I never bothered to dip into Vonnegut on my own,dang me. After all these years,maybe I should...???:)

Anonymous said...

An odd thing is that it's considered odd if a writer doesn't write about sex. I suspect that many sex scenes weren't written because the author thought they added to the book, but because he thought sex scenes mandatory to any novel.

Russell said...

Eh, having read Slaughterhouse 5, Cat's Cradle and one other book (I forget which, which says something on its own) during my teenage years, I have to say that I always took Vonnegut to be the kind of stuff suitable for 14 year old boys with higher than normal IQ. Interesting and innovative for the sensibilities of that particular set, but either obvious and/or pointless for others.

David Davenport said...

I heard a radio interview a few years ago in which the elderly K.V. said he quit his job at General Electric in the early 1960's to write full time because wrting short stories paid better.

Writing short stories paid better? Times have changed.

SFG said...

They have, but maybe it only pays better if you're Kurt Vonnegut.

Plus I believe he used to write scifi before he became a 'serious' writer, which given the regularity with which the core audience bought Analog, Amazing Stories, and all the rest back in the day, might have actually been a good living if you knew how to write that sort of thing.