|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Thursday, April 12, 2007 |
( 4/12/2007 06:22:00 AM ) Bill S.
"THE DARK AGES – THEY HAVEN'T ENDED YET" – I'm definitely part of the generation who helped to make Kurt Vonnegut a best-selling author: discovered Mother Night in high school, and I'm still not sure I've entirely recovered from it. I read this darkly comic anti-spy novel in the midst of the James Bond boom, and more than anything it forced me to rethink the stories I was accepting as entertainment. In college, I went through a heavy Vonnegut phase, of course: read and reread all his novels through Breakfast of Champions in their trade paperback editions – and went to see the movie version of Slaughterhouse Five twice on its opening weekend. Used to do a pretty poor imitation of Ron Leibman's Paul Lazzaro, but then who didn't back then?
In the years since his commercial peak, I've periodically returned to Vonnegut, mainly going back to his older novels (the one that's best held up for me: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, the book which brought Kilgore Trout into the world). Vonnegut's storytelling voice, one of comic ruefulness in the face of humanity's worst moments, remains appealing to me, though I have to admit I've been less enthralled with him as an essayist over the years. Without the smidgeon of character that he brought to his novels, many of Vonnegut's ideas were fairly plain.
Saw the man do a guest stint on The Daily Show a couple of years ago. Though Jon Stewart was obviously enthralled to be in the presence of someone he'd admired for years, the interview itself was pretty uninspiring. I remember feeling saddened by the sight of this frail old man on the screen: inhumanity had outpaced him, it seemed, and all he could do was rage about it. Reading today of his death, I found myself feeling both saddened and relieved for one of the 20th century's greatest writers . . .