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You are here News Editorials Alex Baer: Vonnegut, Five Years Gone.

Alex Baer: Vonnegut, Five Years Gone.

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Kurt VonnegutKurt Vonnegut left the planet five years ago today.  If you noticed his absence then, surely you also know by how much the world has not been the same since.

Some things, however, have not changed:  Kurt found the world humorous, hapless, sadly lacking  -- a pratfall away from cheating death or a breath from unimaginable brilliance.  Or both, maybe simultaneously.  He has said, "Human beings might as well look for diamond tiaras in the gutter as for rewards and punishments that were fair."

He was the author of 14 novels, 5 scripts, 5 short story collections, and 5 books of essays, and countless drawings, all filled with effervescent, irreverent, self-fluorescing Vonnegutian wit and crinkled-smile insights.  "Cat's Cradle" was one such book, in which Kurt created a fanciful and poetic religion, Bokononism -- along with the end of the world, of course.  The new religion gently explained the way of things, in rhyming "calypsos," using rare pairings of wry humor plied with the harsh truth:

"Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly / Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?'

"Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land / Man got to tell himself he understand."

Kurt had a wide-ranging imagination, inventing the planet Tralfamadore, a poisonously-interlocking form of ice, herds of handheld electronic bugaboos to bewilder and baffle his perplexed characters, along with a scientific theory of variable gravity -- playfully crediting that wonder with the effortless movement of mammoth stone blocks, easing completion of the pyramids in Egypt.


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