There seems little doubt that Kurt Vonnegut was one of the finest American authors of the last century. In many ways, despite some very dark moments in his own life, he is simply one of the most noble Americans of all time. Always a patriot, Vonnegut despised the fake nationalism of the Bush administration, coming out of retirement to write the short story collection A Man Without a Country in 2006. He is quoted as saying that he had “drawn energy from my contempt for our president”. (Why patriotism and supporting the president aren’t the same).
As observed in this lovely tribute, it was Vonnegut’s ability to characterize and humanize the frailties that bind us which made his writing so engrossing, captivating and – so often – laugh-out-loud funny.
Although he had not written very much in recent years, his death is a monumental loss. I can think of no writer who comes close to matching his humanity, humor and pure mastery of the language.
Surely it would be fitting to have a memorial to this great man. I suggest a replacement of the Pot Noodle in Times Square, perhaps surrounded by the aliens from Tralfamadore and accompanied by some of his famous one liners:
“If you want to disappoint your parents and don’t have the nerve to be gay, go into the arts.”
“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal labotomy”
NB: the title of this is ironic and borrowed from Vonnegut himself. In a quote about Isaac Asimov:
“Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.
We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, “Isaac is up in Heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, “Kurt is up in Heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.”