The satiric literary icon of the 20th century, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., died today, April 11th, 2007. His death was reported by the publisher Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.
Vonnegut will be greatly missed in the literary world, the satiric world, and in Iowa City, where he’s become a local legend due to his brief stint in the ‘60s as an instructor at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I remember going to many a May Day party at the Vonnegut House in Iowa City, until a family bought it and turned it into a home. I also remember when Vonnegut gave a lecture a few years back in Iowa City to a standing-room only crowd at the IMU main ballroom, not to mention the estimated 2000 people who stood outside the door and didn’t get in to see their beloved icon. I distinctly remember him thanking all of the hippies for buying “Slaughterhouse-V” in the ‘60s so he could afford to take a few years off and dabble in some teaching while writing his next book. Vonnegut still had his wry sense of humor intact, even at 81.
I had just finished reading and teaching “Slaughterhouse-V” three days ago. Please bear with me as I connect some of the spiritual dots here. We had just finished reading and discussing Vonnegut and “Slaughterhouse-V” last Friday, or Good Friday -- the day Jesus had died. So it goes. We discussed how the main character, Billy Pilgrim, was a Jesus character. Two days later I celebrated Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. For whatever reason, this was the first time I had been so deeply moved on Easter, moved enough to actually attend a church service. After church, I wrote a three-part trilogy, which expressed my “Ruminations about Easter, Jesus, and the Resurrection.” Three days later, Vonnegut died. So it goes.
So what does all of this mean? If you follow the syllogism then Billy Pilgrim is Vonnegut is Jesus? Where do I fit in the equation? Who knows? Vonnegut probably does, now that he’s joined his mother, father, and sister, Alice. So it goes.
Well, there’s only one thing you can say when your favorite author and satiric muse dies:
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