Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at the impressively ripe age of 84, sadly claimed by brain injuries from a fall.
Aside from being a famous author, he led one of the ridiculously varied and full lives that people used to lead in the previous century--one of seven POWs to survive the Dresden firebombing (in a meatpacking freezer, thus the title Slaughterhouse Five), a grad student in anthropology whose thesis was rejected by the University of Chicago (they later accepted Cat's Cradle as a replacement), a crime reporter for the late, great City News Bureau, a PR man for General Electric, an instructor of creative writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and a dealer of Saab cars.
I will not pretend to be especially familiar with his work or a fan of his writing, though I recall finding Slaughterhouse Five moving when I read it many years ago. But I will say that I find his life story as moving and hopeful as any fiction I have read, and a full accounting of his life and times makes for outstanding reading. The New York Times, long the finest obit paper in the country, already has a substantial piece. I suspect the local political magazine In These Times, for whom Vonnegut wrote frequently in his later years, will have something good up soon, although nothing as of this writing. Keep an eye out.
"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable."
A PBS interview with Vonnegut