So what does an East Coast based, WWII serving, self-professed liberal, confirmed agnostic writer have to do with a kid raised in the Midwest who ends up being a pastor? In a lot of ways, everything.
The first of Vonnegut’s writings that I remember was a commencement speech that he gave at Cornell University. One of those awful “Parade” like Sunday newspaper supplements had included it in their annual “graduation” issue. And I thought that it was one of the funniest things that I had ever read. The speech was included in a compilation entitled Palm Sunday. And every speech, and short story, and article in the book was better than the one before it. And a big part of me felt like I had found someone who was speaking in my voice, because I wasn’t ready to yet.
Vonnegut was fiercely intelligent, outraged by world that he saw around him, funnier than you, and desperate to believe that there was some sort of better way to live, that people could somehow rise above what they were currently accepting about and expecting from the world around them.
After Palm Sunday, I found a copy of Slaughterhouse Five. And the things that had only been hinted at in the short writings came into hi-def. Wildly pissed off at the capacity of people to destroy other people (in the way that only people who have lived through carnage like the firebombing of Dresden could be) offended by the trite answers and platitudes offered as justification, and offended and amused by his own limitations…this was the most “human” writing that I had ever read. I was hooked.
I have read everything that the man wrote. Earlier this year I picked up my copy of Slaughterhouse Five again and re-read it for the umpteenth time. And it was more powerful than the first time that I read it.
What author, artist, or musician would people be surprised to see in your list of influences? Why?
When Kurt Vonnegut died, I felt the same as when Johnny Cash died. Sad, but exhilarated by the gift he left. And deeply moved by his influence. So do yourself a favor, and discover this amazing writer for yourself.
Here’s some places to start: