“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” – Kurt Vonnegut
I’m a fan of The Daily Show and in September 2005, they had a guest who is my favorite to date: Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a fantastic interview that I go back and watch every so often, including four or five times the week he died in 2007, (watch it HERE). In many ways, he was the way I have always imagined Mark Twain would have been if he had been born about a hundred years later.
Vonnegut was one of the greatest satirists with a sense of humor that is hard to find and impossible to replicate. His novels contain a number of my favorites in literature.
Mother Night: My favorite closing line(s). An amazing look at the handling of war crimes justice after World War II, Mother Night is wonderfully poetic in its irony, but in no scene is it more pronounced than the novel’s closing scene.
“Harrison Bergeron”: My favorite short story. There are many great short stories out there and Vonnegut wrote many of my favorites. Welcome to the Monkey House includes most of these stories, including “Harrison Bergeron”, a look at the need to create equality at all costs.
Breakfast of Champions: My favorite instance of playing with narrative perspective and the author. Though Ian McEwan’s Atonement is my favorite examination of perception and perspective, no one plays with them the way Vonnegut does. It’s not something that can easily be explained, but it is amazing to read.
Kilgore Trout: Favorite recurring character. There are writers that generate series around certain characters and then there are writers like Vonnegut. There are few characters in literature like Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout, the science fiction writer who appears in a number of his works including Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-Five.
Mother Night is my favorite Vonnegut book, and, though I couldn’t think of where in my great list of favorites it fits, Cat’s Cradle comes in at a close second. Oh wait, I thought of one: Favorite “I’ve never thought of it that way before” moment for pointing out the confusion caused in children by naming the game Cat’s Cradle when there are no cats and no cradles involved. It is only the first of many, “I’ve never thought of it that way before” moments that novel and his others possess (and I absolutely love it when books make me do that, make me think about things differently).