Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut's peephole has closed

I mentioned the great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut in my February post with the title Watch out for life! And I quoted these opening lines from Deadeye Dick:

To the as-yet-unborn, to all innocent wisps of undifferentiated nothingness: Watch out for life. I have caught life. I have come down with life. I was a wisp of undifferentiated nothingness, and then a little peephole opened quite suddenly. Light and sound poured in. Voices began to describe me and my surroundings.

The 84-year-old writer died yesterday in Manhattan.

To me, Vonnegut's novels are like a bugged computer program. When you examine a detailed section, everything seems to be in place, and it should work fine. But when you assemble all the sections into a whole, either the global program doesn't work, or else it produces the wrong answers. For Vonnegut, the source of the bug is life itself. He was a joyous pessimist. His philosophy: If something can blow up, it will... and there'll be a great bang and fabulous fireworks. He might be described as an existentialist novelist. A great story-teller, too.

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