Serious Fun

In It for the Money?

"The best jokes are dangerous...because they are in some way truthful"--Vonnegut was right.

Book Cover Saying someone needs no introduction used to have some validity--before life in the post-industrial world went all 365/24/7 on us. Now the exponential explosion of sense-wracking gossip, trivia, ED adverts, and religious poppycock renders that gesture anachronistic. Nonetheless I would love to think that Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five), who died in 2007, needs no introduction--at least to people who find their way to this outlying outpost.

Let me take care of a couple things on my left-wing, arugula-eating agenda by bringing an unintentionally amusing obituary of Vonnegut to your attention. This in the they-would-be-viewed-as-amusing-if-they-weren't-so toxic category and a case in point of one of Vonnegut's Swiftian bon mots from Cat's Cradle:
Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before... He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.
Well anyway, a new volume of Vonnegut short stories has been assembled: Look at the Birdie (Delacorte). Anthologized here are 14 previously unpublished stories (festooned with the author's chirpy line drawings) written just as Vonnegut was liberating himself from the grind of his servitude to General Electric. The stories are nascent exemplars of Vonnegut's humorous humanism and are well worth any reader's time. But what I found especially edifying was the facsimile of a letter he wrote to a friend in 1951 on where his writing was going:
...the obvious alternative is, of course, something to please The Atlantic, Harper's or The New Yorker. To do this would be to turn out something after the fashion of somebody-or-other, and I might be able to do it. I say might. It amounts to signing on with any of a dozen schools born 10, 20, 30 years ago. The kicks are largely on having passed off a creditable counterfeit. And, of course, if you appear in The Atlantic or Harper's or The New Yorker, by God you must be a writer, because everybody says so. This is poor competition for the fat checks from the slicks. For want of anything more tempting, I'll stick with money.
And he did.
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