Thursday, April 12, 2007
This is truly a sad day. I found out a couple of hours ago that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has died. To say that it took the wind out of my sails this evening would be an understatement.
So it goes.
I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Perhaps it's selfish or wrong of me, but I feel like I've lost an old friend.
I think Vonnegut has influenced me as both a writer and a person more than any single artist in my life. Even more than George Lucas. I've read all of his books (with one exception) at least 4 times. Each time I read a Vonnegut book, I feel like I'm visiting with an old friend and now that friend is gone, although I'll still have his books.
I wrote Kurt Vonnegut three letters. I never sent any of them. And when I was busy not sending them, I knew that eventually his time would come and I would regret not sending them.
Truly, I regret not sending them.
In the letters I told him that he didn't need to fear so much about the generations of kids after him. That people like me still do care about things like Abraham Lincoln and Sacco and Vanzetti and Eugene Debs. Kids like myself (although I suppose I'm not much of a kid anymore) really did learn and care to learn from people as wise as he.
More importantly, he taught me how important it is to care about my fellow man better than all my years studying dogma inside an organized religion and that I didn't have to believe in God to do it. He taught me the value of Christianity and the teachings of Christ without having to fall into the trap of all of the spiritual mumbo-jumbo that went with it. He taught me the optimism to see the essential decency in pretty much any human being.
He inspired me to write what I believe to be some of my best short stories (if you're familiar with Vonnegut's work, you might be interested to read them. Here, here, here, here, and here. But this isn't about me, this is about the profound influence this man has had on my life.)
There's so much more I want to say about him and maybe in a couple of days I'll be more composed to say more about it.
But at this point, I'd be remiss if I didn't sign off by saying that Kurt's probably in Heaven now.
I'm probably not the first to say it and I will certainly not be the last, but it's something that has to be said.