Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vonnegut Gone

My son and I spoke about Kurt Vonnegut on the drive to school this morning. At first, I was afraid that I didn't have a Vonnegut story for him (I'm middle-aged, so I've actually met a lot of the authors I admire), but, to my amazement, I had enough to say to get him to promise to read Slaughterhouse Five after the new Terry Prachet (you cannot believe how awesome it is to have a child who likes the same kind of fiction you do - the day he came home from school and said that 1984 was his favorite book, my heart jumped and melted simultaneously).

I read Slaughterhouse Five in high school while learning about science fiction and great American novels. I read it around the same time I read Catch 22 and thought it a much better book about the Vietnam War through the prism of WWII experiences. And when I look back on things, I realize just how influential and ground-breaking Vonnegut was in the 70's. There would be no Hitchhikers Guide without him.

He gave one of my writers a quote in the early 2000's and I used it to sell her novel, but one of the much younger editors at that house said, "Can't she get anybody else? Does anybody read Vonnegut any more?" and I was devastated.

I've always felt that an author who can transcend genre and make his work both literature and commerc1al fiction is a true genius. There are very few. Vonnegut was one of the best.

3 comments:

Sam said...

This is a post close to my heart. I was devestated when I heard of his death.
I discovered his books when I was in 7th grade, and after reading 'Welcome to the Monkey House' I went on to read all his others.
I got his last book as a Christmas present this year 'A Man Without a Country', and today, for my English lesson, I read 'Welcome to the Monkey House' aloud to my students.
It is scary seeing how closely America is coming to resemble Kurt Vonnegut's vision.

Ryan Field said...

Riding that thin line of commercial and literary isn't easy. And speaking as a reader it's so hard to find lately. What that young editor said would have shocked me at one time, but not anymore (and I'm 36). I recently read on a comment thread where one very famous female author was mentioned as a chick lit writer (I won't mention the name because I don't want to spark anything here, and chick lit is a wonderful genre)and she's anything but that. This writer, like KV, has always been literary/commercial, and she writes quiet novels with intricate characters that leave a lasting impression...but people aren't getting the concept these days. Oh, I must have heard the word "crossover" at least a thousand times from editors in the past six months, but it's a different kind of "crossover" than it used to be. Now, speaking as a writer I simply do what they ask and smile so I can get my check. It's all good.

Marti said...

and so it goes