Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut

You were probably thinking, what happened to Vonnegut? He hasn’t read a Vonnegut in months. Oh no, did he already finish all the Vonneguts?![1]

Actually, there’s been a Vonnegut–Deadeye Dick–in my pile of library books since two library visits ago. I’ve been feeling guilty about reading always the same things so I’ve been intentionally avoiding him, and others. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped liking him, I was just giving variety a chance. Also, I am nearing the end of his bibliography (for novels, at least), which is always a sad affair.

From being absolutely blown away by The Sirens of Titan to wondering what the hell crap I’m reading with Breakfast of Champions, from being mildly disappointed by Slaughterhouse Five to rolling in the brilliance of Galapagos like a pig discovering a mud hole on a warm afternoon, Vonnegut has climbed in my estimation to be one of my favourite authors.

The other day I said: You can’t be a bad person if you like–truly like–Vonnegut, and I believe it.

-Reading the Why

[1] That last is me: the pain of having read everything by your favourite authors is real.

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Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is not my favourite writer. That honour belongs to Douglas Adams.(1) And Bill Watterson. Vonnegut is certainly up there,(2) and some of his books certainly count among my favourites. Maybe if I had ‘discovered’ his writings when I was younger, in my formative years, when whims stick longer and become immovable as the foundations of the edifice that is to become my ‘self’. Maybe when I’ve read all of his books, I can chair a committee to see where he ultimately ranks. I’m happy to still have a quite a few to enjoy.

I like Vonnegut for two reasons:

ONE: He wrote about posthumanity, without ever using such terms.(4) Like it says on the back cover of Galapagos: ‘Kurt Vonnegut takes you back one million years. To A.D. 1986–and the beginning of the human race.’ Because why would posthumans call themselves posthuman? Only today’s egoists would deign to regard the humans of the future and define them in relation to ourselves. They will just be humans, and everything else that came before them something less than.

TWO: He wrote comedy, fought the ills of the world with humour, and lost. As he put it in A Man without a Country, ‘Humor is a way of holding off how awful life can be, to protect yourself. Finally, you get just too tired, and the news is too awful, and humor doesn’t work anymore.’ That’s kind of how I feel about Seinfeld too.

So now that we know how it ends, let’s go back to 1976, back when it was still just funny?

-Reading the Why

(1) Why, you’re very welcome, Mr Adams.
(2) Along with Pynchon, Huxley, Nabokov, Robbins.(3)
(3) I seriously need to read more female writers.
(4) See my other blog: Be Less Human which is all about posthumanity.

What made marriage so difficult back then was yet again that instigator of so many other sorts of heartbreak: the oversize brain. That cumbersome computer could cold so many contradictory opinions on so many different subjects all at once, and switch from one opinion or subject to another one so quickly, that a discussion between a husband and wife under stress could end up like a fight between blindfolded people wearing roller skates.

-Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos