Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Vonnegut

Here are some quotes that are coming to mind, today:

From Mother Night (which I think is, ultimately, my favorite of his novels):

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."
I also like the quote the Times obit lifted from “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

I think it must be hard for somebody who picks up Vonnegut's books for the first time, today, to really appreciate what they are about; much of their meaning came from contrasting what was within them with what was happening in the world around during the 1960s and early 70s. The Times article does a nice job of giving a sense of how the times in which Vonnegut wrote gave deep meaning (even political meaning) to a seemingly casual, throwaway phrase like "so it goes":

[“Slaughterhouse-Five,”] featured a signature Vonnegut phrase.

“Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles from the home I live in all year round,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote at the end of the book, “was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes.

Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes. And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.”

One of many Zenlike words and phrases that run through Mr. Vonnegut’s books, “so it goes” became a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam war.

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