November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut!

November 11, 2013
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite literary heroes, and today is his birthday, so I am dedicating a post in his honor. Though he has passed a few years ago, his spirit still lives on in his work and legacy. My favorite books of his are Slaughter-house Five and Cat's Cradle. In celebration of Kurt's day of birth, Amazon is having a sale on select books. Snag his books for only $1.99! It will not disappoint, I guarantee. Even if you aren't a fan of literature, the satire in his writing will make you love it.

Fun fact: (okay, it's not that fun but...) I used to play cat's cradle when I was a kid. My friends introduced it to me during recess one day, and I was hooked ever since. I even taught my mom how to play. To this day, I still remember how to play if only I had a string and a partner who knows how to. That was before I knew of Kurt Vonnegut's existence. So when I discovered him few years back, I was more than ecstatic to read the one he wrote about my childhood game. Eventually I read more of his books, and appreciated his outlook on life and the things we let pass by.

Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003. 

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in World War II. 

After the war, he attended University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a police reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He left Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York in public relations for General Electric. He attributed his unadorned writing style to his reporting work. 

His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden, Germany whilst a prisoner of war, would inform much of his work. This event would also form the core of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, the book which would make him a millionaire. This acerbic 200-page book is what most people mean when they describe a work as "Vonnegutian" in scope. 

Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana's own Eugene V. Debs) and a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat's Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) (More info on Goodreads)

Favorite quotes from Kurt Vonnegut

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”  
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to always tell the difference.” 
"So it goes."
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” 
“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.” 
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” 
“And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human."
“There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.” 
“If you can do no good, at least do no harm.” 
“Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.” 
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.” 
“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles. 
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”  
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” 
“How nice -- to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.” 
“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” 
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” 
“I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone.”
“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
“Make love when you can. It's good for you.”
“The practice of art isn't to make a living. It's to make your soul grow.”
“Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn't it such a relief to have somebody say that?”
“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say.” 
“No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's . . ."
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”
“Americans... are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.” 
“No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.” 
“People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore.”
“It was very exciting for her, taking his dignity away in the name of love.” 

Books by Kurt Vonnegut

Happy Birthday, Kurt!
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