Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP, Kurt Vonnegut

'Slaughterhouse-Five' Author Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84

Though I vehemently disagreed with him on many issues, I loved Vonnegut and the voice he gave to such poignant issues: dehumanization, demoralization, despair. All while making me laugh.

My favorite novel remains Cat's Cradle, in which the fake religion, Bokononism, reflects my understanding of Christianity far better than any serious theologian's attempts ever have. Yet Cat's Cradle is a dark novel about the lies we tell ourselves to function. The title comes from Newt's reflection on the tangle of string adults shove into kids' faces, identified as a "cat's cradle" -- there's no cat, and no cradle. It's dark story in honor of which I wrote a bit of doggerel:

My father tried to tell me how to live a good life
Get a job, work hard, be a good wife
Raise my kids right so they can live the same way
It's all a cat's cradle. Daddy taught me how to play

I went away to college to fill my head with truth
The wisdom of the aged and the ideals of the youth
Learned all that I would need to find fortune and fame
And I got a cat's cradle in a fine blue frame

I found myself a husband, a mate to share my days
Someone to walk beside me, to journey on my way
You need someone to cling to, someone to try to trust
So we built a cat's cradle out of lonliness and lust

My kids look to me to teach them how to live
I want a good gift for them, but what have I to give?
Every rhyme needs a reason, every story needs a plot
And this damned cat's cradle is the only thing I've got

RIP, Mr. Vonnegut. Thank you for articulating so much that I never would have found the words for myself.


John Jansen said...

I'm with you, Christina. I too don't agree with much of his philosophy nowadays, but I was a fan of his unique writing style.

Parts of Breakfast of Champions, in particular, still stick out in my mind as being laugh-out-loud funny.

Anonymous said...

Christina, no need to despair. For a Christian, the answer to all of those "Why?" questions is "For the glory of God":
"Why do I raise my kids?" "For the glory of God."
"Why do we homeschool?" "For the glory of God."
"Why do I care for my wife and sacrifice on her behalf?" "For the glory of God."

See? Simple! :)

Okay, there are usually a few intermediate steps along the way. For example:
We are homeschooling because providing an education and a moral foundation is the parents' job. God gave our kids to us for a reason, and He wants us to raise them. We accepted that commission, and we want to do our best at it. Why? "For the glory of God."

Why do unbelievers have kids, let alone take the time to raise them? Um ... I'm not sure. I'll let one of them answer. ;)

Lauren said...

Christina, I've always been a big Vonnegut fan regardless of politics.

I was sad to hear about his death, especially given the fact that he was quite vocal about his humanist/atheist views.

Christina Dunigan said...

What bummed me out the most, I think, is I was at work when I read the news and I said, "Aw! Kurt Vonnegut died!" and all the kids (young teachers!) looked at me and said, "Who?"

These are university graduates! What do they teach in school these days? My kids read Slaughterhouse Five in high school. Trish thought it was a horror movie!

Christina Dunigan said...

John, I did like Breakfast of Champions, but I prefer Player Piano, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse Five, and of course Cat's Cradle.

I like the scene in the Killgore Trout novel where the guy goes to the Euthanasia Clinic and as the Death Stewardess straps him in, has one question: "What in the hell are people for?"

I'd answer, "To love," but it's a hellova question.

Anonymous said...

Don't despair the state of our youth too much. I'm 24, and my 23 year old fiance and I sat on the couch and wept when it came on the Today show.

What I loved about his books so much was that no matter how rotten people act, he was of the firm belief that we are here to be kind to one and other.