Anne Fleming

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

I should be working but instead I am feeling lost because Kurt Vonnegut, Jr has died. A student of mine posted the news on our course web site. “Man,” she said, “I just assumed this man would live forever, you know? :(” and I realized I did, too, even though according to him he’s been committing suicide by cigarette for probably close to seventy years.

I can’t think of another author whose death has made me stop this way since, oh, I don’t know, Margaret Laurence.

First Vonnegut I read was Breakfast of Champions. I was 13. Call me juvenile, but I was won over right away by the felt-tipped asterisk asshole. I remain so.

He was funny. He broke rules. But what I love most is how he distanced himself from familiar things, re-saw the taken-for-granted. A gun is a thing for putting holes in people. Basically, all he did was take that grade two postulation – if a Martian (Tralfamadorian) came to earth, what would he make of it? – and run with it. For a lifetime.

I went on to read pretty much every single thing he wrote until the one after Galapagos. Over and over again. I’ve been looking forward to Man Without a Country. And now that’s it.

The day before yesterday, the day before he died, though of course I didn’t know it then, a student was commenting on the use of the refrain in fiction. “So it goes,” I wrote in the margin.

So it goes.


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