Papa Kurt

There was a twenty-second item on the breakfast news this morning. The writer Kurt Vonnegut is dead, it said. He was very influential, it said. He had opinions.

And then they went back to the usual stuff about Londoners killing each other in domestic disputes and school children eating badly.

It would be remiss of me not to say something about Kurt Vonnegut. Yeah, everyone else on the Internet is lamenting his death and I doubt I can add anything to this swansong but I feel like I want to note his death so that when future historians look specifically to my blog as an historical resource, they will get a nice big boner at this reference to a real and corroborated event.

He was without a doubt my favourite writer. Maybe there is someone’s work which I have not yet read and happens to be funnier, smarter, scarier and more prophetic than Papa Kurt’s stuff but I find that increasingly unlikely.

A few moments after watching the news clip this morning, I realised that this would be one of those “you’ll always remember where you were” moments. When I mentioned this to my friend David today he said that the same thing happened to him when Syd Barrett died. For some reason, I struggled to remember who Syd Barrett was despite the fact that I have one of his CDs and have always liked Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon was the first album I ever listened to). The only face that would come to mind was that of Sid James. My three years studying psychology qualifies me to say “It’s funny how the brain works”.

It was Vonnegut’s brain that failed him in the end too. Apparently, he failed to recover from an incident a few weeks ago when he fell on his head. It’s a blackly trivial end for such a great man. I had expected he would have been zapped off by a Tralfamadorian spaceship or something. The anti-climax of it is almost akin to the splattering of Walt Whitman’s brain.

I don’t know why this has upset me so much. Kurt had a fair innings and had, after all, tried to commit suicide on occasion so he was probably fairly used to the idea of dying. I’m fairly positive he had written all he was going to write – Timequake officially being his final novel succeeded only by a book of laundry lists and political musings in 2005 – so it wasn’t one of those tragic died-so-young Nick Drake affairs.

Today I carried around a battered copy of God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater and told people I met that the writer had died today.

You can see me holding the book in this photograph.

“All persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental, and should not be construed.”

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