Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut is still alive

Kurt Vonnegut may have physically died, but he does live on in a very real sense in his books and other writings.

When most people die, their "legacy" can usually be categorized primarily as simply "memories" and events and activities associated with the past, but Vonnegut's works have such a timeless quality that even the word "legacy" seems inappropriate.

So many books can aspire no further than a moment of glory when they spike up to being a "best seller", before plummeting into relative obscurity. Vonnegut's works have (present tense) the quality of simultaneously rarely spiking up to "bestseller" territory, but also never losing their hard-core popular appeal.

He literally was able to transcend the limitations of being merely a flawed human being, and became something much more through his writings. He gave us the ability to not only see what and who we are as a society, but also what and who we are as individuals.

I never knew or met him personally, so I can't say that I'll miss him in that sense. But I can say that he wrote enough that simply re-reading and re-reading his works for the next 50 years would not leave me feeling hungry for anything "new." So, in a very real sense, I won't miss him at all.

Sure, in some real sense it is sad to hear that he is "gone", but simply hearing his name is always enough to cheer up even the gloomiest of moments.

He may be physically dead, but his works are still as alive and relevant as they ever were.

One of the ironic peculiarities of his writing is that as pessimistic as he may be, at least in me he has always inspired optimism. Simply the way he approaches pessimism in his writing style takes the wind out of the sails of that pessimism.

So it goes.

-- Jack Krupansky

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