Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vonnegut Passes

Kurt Vonnegut, considered by many to be one of America's finest authors, died in New York City on April 11, of complications after a fall. He was 84 years old.

Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions and about 17 others, was born in Indianapolis on November 11, 1922. The Los Angeles Times’ Elaine Woo has put together an affectionate and in-depth look at the literary giant:
An obscure science fiction writer for two decades before earning mainstream acclaim in 1969 with Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was an American original, often compared to Mark Twain for a vision that combined social criticism, wildly black humor and a call to basic human decency. He was, novelist Jay MacInerny [sic] once said, “a satirist with a heart, a moralist with a whoopee cushion.”

Although he was disdained by some critics who thought his work was too popular and accessible, his fiction inspired volumes of scholarly comment as well as websites maintained by young fans who have helped keep all 14 of his novels in print over a 50-year career. Five of his novels have made the leap into films.
His last novel was 1997’s Timequake, a book that critics said was murky and odd and confusing, but mostly loved anyway. Valerie Sayers called it both of those things in The New York Times, then gave it some serious love:
Nearly 30 years later, Vonnegut is still making the pompous look silly and the decent and lovely look decent and lovely. His new so-called novel, “Timequake,” is, as Vonnegut describes it, a “stew.” He has taken the best pickings from a novel that wasn’t working and interspersed them with a running commentary on his own life and the state of the universe. The mix is thick and rich: a political novel that's not a novel, a memoir that is not inclined to reveal the most private details of the writer’s life.
The NYT review of Timequake is here. Elaine Woo’s LAT remembrance is here.

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