Kurt Vonnegut, Freethinker

21 Jun 2012

Christopher Buckley for the New York Times:

This was echt Vonnegut: not with a bang or a whimper but with a shrug. If he, like Twain, was angry at the universe — and had every reason to be — he wasn’t going to yell himself hoarse or make himself a spectacle in the process. He possessed more ambivalence than passion.

There is a sadness to Vonnegut’s stories, as if his writing was more rote than expression — as if he had experienced it all before and would experience it all again. This theme repeats itself in much of his writing, culminating finally with Timequake wherein all of humanity is forced to relive the same ten years of their life again without an opportunity to change the events. This is a terrible enough prospect in itself, but it carries all the more force when it comes from a man with such a deep history in the horror of existence: he lived through the suicide of his mother; he lived through a World War II POW camp and the fire-bombing of Dresden; he lived through his own all-consuming depression.

But Vonnegut denies the idea that we should wallow in tragedies, his or any other. We are brought to this existence merely by coincidence and everything that follows is equally coincidental, as with leaves on the wind. Life, and tragedy, happens.

So it goes.