Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut’

36. “Galapagos,” Kurt Vonnegut

May 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Told by Leon Trotsky Trout, a million-odd year-old-ghost, this is the story about the near-end of humanity, evolution, and the danger of our great big brains (which always seem to be up to no good). This is standard Vonnegut fare: a first person omniscient narrator, jumbled timeline, paranoia about technical advances, and a loving critique of humanity.

A couple quotes:

And I pity him, because I can still remember what I was like when I was sixteen. It was hell to be that excited. Then as now, orgasms give no relief. Ten minutes after an orgasm, guess what? Nothing would do but that you have another one. And there was homework besides!

Which reminds me of an “Arrested Development” quote:

GOB: I’d give anything to be eight.
GEORGE MICHAEL: I’m thirteen.
GOB: No, I wasn’t crazy about thirteen: the acne. The self-conciousness. The erections.

Back to “Galapagos”:

That was another thing people used to be able to do, which they can’t do anymore: enjoy in their heads events which hadn’t happened yet and which might never occur. My mother was good at that. Someday my father [Kilgore Trout] would stop writing science fiction, and write something a whole lot of people wanted to read instead. And we would get a new house in a beautiful city, and nice clothes, and so on. She used to make me wonder why G-d had ever gone to the trouble of creating reality.

Page count: 295
Page total: 17,211


22. “Slaughter-House Five”, Kurt Vonnegut

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

I really love this book though, as with anything by Kurt Vonnegut, you end up sounding like an idiot when you try to explain to people why you are clutching it to your bosom. “Well, it’s a fictional account of Kurt Vonnegut’s experiences in World War II when he was a prisoner of war. He was in Dresden when it was firebombed and was one of very few people to make it out alive. [They nod empathetically.] So, Vonnegut decides to write about his experiences in the war and focuses on a soldier he knew, Billy Pilgrim, who hascomeunstuckintime and keepsexperiencinglifeeventsoutoforder and forawhilethere,heisanexhibitinanalienzoo. And there is this lovely phrase the Vonnegut uses whenever the talks about someone dying. It’s just ‘so it goes’, because theTramfaldorianscanseeintothefourthdimension and believe that when a person is dead, they are merely in a bad state right then, but are okay in many other moments.”

Oh Vonnegut. You can make a fool out of me any day.

Quotes are on the next page Read more…

“And another thing…”

March 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Re-reading “Slaughter-House Five” right now. This quote has been cracking me up for the past few days:

I had the Bell Telephone Company find [my old war buddy] for me.They are wonderful that way. I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years. (4)

I just love the idea of Kurt Vonnegut drunk dialing people from World War II.

16. “Cat’s Cradle”, Kurt Vonnegut

February 7, 2009 Leave a comment

I often feel that I do not really “get” Vonnegut, but I always enjoy him and he usually gives me something interesting to think about.

This book gives us one of my favourite Vonnegut quotes:

“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before. […] He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.” (281)

He also develops in this book the theme of “Slaughter House Five”, which is that all people killed in war are children and there is a terrible dishonesty in pretending otherwise. It’s too long to quote it all, but here’s a nice bit:

“My soul insists that I mourn not a man but a child.
“I do not say that children at war do not die men, if they haveto die. To their everlasting honor and our everlasting shame, they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays.
“But they are murdered children all the same.” (254)

Page count: 287
Total: 12,038
Next on the stack: Kitchen Confidential, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category, and Peter Pan

“The Kid Nobody Could Handle”, Kurt Vonnegut

March 3, 2008 Leave a comment

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


“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.

Kurt Vonnegut quotes

January 9, 2008 Leave a comment

I’m finding Kurt Vonnegut quotes tonight, which always makes me want to pull out all my veins with terribly tugging pops, and reach in and remove organs by the handful.

“And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

That’s one favor I’ve asked of you.

Now I’ve got another one, a show of hands. How many of you have had a teacher at any point in your entire education who made you happier to be alive, prouder to be alive than you had previously believed possible? Now please say the name of that teacher out loud to someone sitting or standing near you.

OK? All done? ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’Address at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, September 22, 2003

“How nice–to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.” “Breakfast of Champions”

“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— ‘G-d damn it, you’ve got to be kind’.” “G-d Bless you, Mr. Rosewater”

“Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”

“You guarantee that you are telling the truth by saying ‘I give my word of honor that such and such is true’. I have never knowingly lied, having said first I give my word of honor. So I now give you my word of honor that it is a courageous and honorable and beautiful thing you have done to become college graduates.

I give you my word of honor that we love you and need you. We love you simply because you are of our species. You have been born. That is enough.” Commencement Address, Southampton College, c. May 1981

“I apologize. I said I would apologize; I apologize now. I apologize because of the terrible mess the planet is in. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any ”Good Old Days,” there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, ”Don’t look at me. I just got here myself.” Syracuse University

He’s just beautiful and reminds me of my gram.

“And so it goes.”

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