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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Vale, Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's novels, up to Jailbird, formed one of the main areas of focus for my original Ph.D, on the supposed return to myth in modern fictional narrative, and I was a fan of Vonnegut from my childhood, back in the 1960s, even before the publication of Slaughterhouse 5, his most famous novel. As a kid, I especially loved The Sirens of Titan and Cat's Cradle, which I still consider masterpieces of science fiction black comedy.

Later on, there was a period when the books in which I was most deeply immersed were Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort - though it's not at all obvious to me now what they had in common apart from frequent use of line drawings.

Go figure.

I've kept up with all of Vonnegut's books since then, with the exception of his last volume of essays (which I must get my hands on). Vonnegut was a wise and humane man, a great modern writer - profound, brilliant, and funny - and someone who enormously influenced how I see the world, though I sometimes found myself disagreeing with remarks that he made in his old age, when his understandable bitterness at political directions in the US seemed to cloud his judgment.

It was not exactly a shock to me when he died earlier this week, aged 84 - there had been at least one earlier scare, and Vonnegut was far from a young man. In all the circumstances, the news was hardly surprising. But it was still horribly sad to see the loss of a writer whose life and work meant so much to me. I am tempted, as many people are at the moment, to write "So it goes" - but I don't think the ferocious irony of those recurrent words from Slaughterhouse 5, applied by Vonnegut to the fact of death, is widely-enough appreciated. For clarity, a little more needs to be said. It especially needs to be said here, on this transhumanism-friendly blog.

"So it goes, damn it."

2 comments:

Blake Stacey said...

The death of Kurt Vonnegut was the first thing I learned about when I woke up that morning. It seemed like a good reason to go back to bed. Instead, I walked to work under a slate-grey sky which opened to drizzle freezing rain upon Cambridge, Massachusetts like the kidney stones of Zeus.

God damn objective correlative weather.

Russell Blackford said...

I actually felt a bit cheated because I didn't find out for a day or so after it happened.

I don't think I bought a newspaper that morning, and my other habits by which I pick up news (TV, radio, internet) were all a bit disrupted by being away from home and being focused more on catching up with various people. It wasn't until I got to my emails that I started seeing stuff about it.