12 April 2007
Yesterday, April 11, 2007, America lost one of its most distinct and darkly satirical literary voices. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was a journalist, author, playwright, sometime teacher, essayist, and social critic. I personally find him to be the most unique writer I have encountered. I first came upon Mr. Vonnegut when reading his short story "Harrison Bergeron". I was immediately hooked and proceeded to read nearly all of his work, starting with the wildly inventive masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five, and continuing on through my personal favorites Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard, to Breakfast of Champions, Deadeye Dick, Sirens of Titan, the short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House, and even the lesser known God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and Galapagos. In honor of the passing of my favorite author, I present my top 5 Kurt Vonnegut works.
1. Bluebeard (1987)- The fictional autobiography of Abstract Expressionist painter Rabo Karabekian. This isn't known as the best Vonnegut work, but it is my favorite. It is also the reason I can appreciate Jackson Pollack (No it was not Mr. Haller).
2. Cat's Cradle (1963)- A (sort of) apocalyptic novel that introduces Vonnegut made-up religion Bokononism. Incidentally, in 1971 the University of Chicago awarded Vonnegut his Master's degree in anthropology, accepting Cat's Cradle as his thesis.
3. Breakfast of Champions (1973)- The story of Pontiac dealer Dwayne Hoover and recurring character, science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This work includes Kurt Vonnegut as a character himself, and weaves through convoluted narrative the story of one man going insane due to his "bad chemicals."
4. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)- The story of Billy Pilgrim, his presence during the allied bombing of Dresden, and his journey through time to the planet of Tralfamadore. This work explores Vonnegut's own experience in Dresden.
5. Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)- This collection of short stories features such standouts as "Harrison Bergeron," "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," and "The Euphio Question."
All told, Mr. Vonnegut produced a staggering body of work that spans six decades and features more than one contender for the great American satire.
Lastly, here is Mr. Vonnegut being interviewed by Mr. Stewart on The Daily Show, from 2005.