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Kurt Vonnegut: So it goes

Vail Daily Editorial
Vail CO, Colorado

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

” Kurt Vonnegut

In one of Kurt Vonnegut novels, the writer describes one of those wacky morning DJs as sounding like the announcer of a steeplechase with unusual steeds and obstacles. Someone riding in a bathtub pulled by aardvarks, Vonnegut wrote, had as much chance to win as anyone.



That vividly imagined scene, as well as any other, summarized Vonnegut’s take on life. Vonnegut, who died Wednesday at 84, saw the worst of what humans are capable of as a POW during the bombing of Dresden in 1945, yet he survived to write 14 life-affirming novels based on the notion that life is ridiculous ” and eminently more livable if you don’t take it too seriously.

It was easy to cozy up with a Vonnegut novel and forget that people in the greater world are extremely uptight about sex. To Vonnegut, it was all just plumbing. One could also be lured into thinking that the architects of war were as innocent and deceived as those in the trenches doing the fighting. To Vonnegut, “good” or “evil” weren’t so much in the hearts of man but in the combination of chemicals driving the brain. Things could just go wrong with the mixture, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault.



With Vonnegut’s passing, we’ve lost the Mark Twain of the post-World-War II era, a writer whose black comic novels depicted war and life’s other nastiness as the despicable things they are but who nevertheless found humor in even the bleakest moments, real or imagined. In contrast to some of the veterans running our country now, Vonnegut championed kindness and beauty. He was a brilliant social critic who never shied from pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothing, and he stood amazed at the wanton destruction of the very planet we call home. Vonnegut’s pointed commentary usually hit the mark in wonderfully economical fashion: “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.”

We’ll miss the voice of a wildly original artist who professed not to take things too seriously but who nonetheless did his best to brighten where he could. The books, of course, live on as Vonnegut’s famous phrase “so it goes” lingers over his grave: a fitting coda that says as much about a remarkable life as, Vonnegut might say, the inherent futility of having lived it.

” Alex Miller for the Editorial Board


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