Home > 2008 books > “The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, Kurt Vonnegut

“The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, Kurt Vonnegut

While I was reading those Kurt Vonnegut quotes and listening to interview with him, I learnt that he was a great supporter of (public) schools. He could have written the episode of “The West Wing” episode that I often rip off when talking about schools:

“Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defence.” “The West Wing”, S1, E8: “Enemies”

I don’t know why I felt the thrill of surprise when I read Vonnegut’s thoughts on schooling. It should have been obvious to me, having read “The Kid That Nobody Could Handle”. This is one of the stories I read last summer while on a Vonnegut kick. It had me weeping hugely on the Commuter train.

“If you smashed up all the schools,” said Helmholtz, “we wouldn’t have any hope left.”
“What hope?” said Jim.
“The hope that everybody will be glad he’s alive,” said Helmholtz. “Even you.” “The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, p. 278

More…

“Think of it this way,” said Helmholtz [to his band]. “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we came into it. It can be done. You can do it.”
A small cry of despair come from Jim Donnini. It was meant to be private, but it pierced every ear with its poignancy.
“How?” said Jim.
“Love yourself,” said Helmholtz, “and make your instrument sing about it. A-one, a-two, a-three.” Down came his baton. “The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, p. 282-283

“Why’dja do that? What’s that prove?”
“I–I don’t know,” said Helmholtz. A terrible blasphemy rumbled deem inside him, like a warning of a volcano. And then, irresistibly, out it came. “Life is no damn good,” said Helmholtz. His face twisted as he fought back tears of shame. “The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, p. 282

Now Helmholtz saw the futility of men and their treasures. He had thought that his great treasure, the trumpet, could buy a soul for Jim. The trumpet was worthless. “The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, p. 281-282

Helmholtz, the mountain that walked like a man, was falling apart. Jim Donnini’s eyes filled with pity and alarm. They came alive. They became human. Helmholtz had got a message through. Quinn looked at Jim, and something like hope flickered for the first time in his bitterly lonely face. “The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, p. 282

Oh Kurt.

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