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.