Tuesday, December 29, 2009


When Kurt Vonnegut hitchhiked his way from Camp Atterbury, home to Indianapolis, having just been mustered out of the second world war...what was on his mind?

Was he thin
king about the fire-storm that he survived in Dresden, war in general or did he realize that the mental notes he had made about these events would turn into a best-seller? When he penned "Slaughter-House Five", did he realize the importance of having been the sole journalist on the scene of the Dresden massacre would win, then lose importance in the Amerikan view of the "good war"?

When it was celebrated as the great war novel, it was quickly shoved into that genus of "leftist" efforts and appreciated only for it's excellence as a novel... with it's historical proportions being tsk...tsk-ed by all reviewers and hence to literary history.

Was he, like his protagonist Billy Pilgrim, naive and unaware of the importance of such a journalistic, not novel observation? I think not. Like he said many times..."Hi-Ho".

I think he was ambivalent about his experiences in the war and his keen mind that judged them. He simply gave up in the face of publishers and well-wishers, the idea that WE were the "AXIS" after all. Who else could be capable of horrific mass-murder on a scale such as Dresden...a city destroyed with no military objective other
than terrorism? To take such observations to their logical conclusion might have brought this journalist/novelist's career to an early end. I can't say I blame him for throwing a "sucker-punch" and leaving it at that.

But it says much about the "winner" status. The winners write the history, they say. We are living that even now. With god-only-knows how many holohoax museums from Auschwitz to Alaska...the lies are forever present...formulating the next "good war".


Frank said...


You brought back one memory with this one. KV was whimsical, or thought he had to be. I met him 3 times, one of which he asked me, "What the hell's a writer in residence" as though he had gotten such a job or maybe was offered one.

He was unhappy and complained that people who liked his books expected he agreed with them on HIS opinions. A less convoluted construction might be to say: His fans thought he followed the inner logic of his own books. KV did not like that because his books were where the money was, not what he thought about things, not what he "believed", not what he cared about.

This annoyed me in one case. I once asked him about "God Bless You Mr Rosewater" and I said, are you telling me there's not one damn thing in there that concerns you?

He just played as usual. Which book was THAT ONE? He asked. What SORT of ideas was I fiddling with about this Mr Rosewater?

Ideas for him were like putty; you push them into shape and if the shape's right, they sell.

I was honestly happy when his books stopped selling; also honestly unhappy when he died. He was not a bad soul. He didn't care about nothing, not his people, the truth, nothing. But that made him typical, not bad.

timster said...

Thank you for that! Although I never met him...you described him exactly as I imagined. It was kind of obvious to anyone that followed his publications closely, that he wasn't a "cause" type of person...but more of an observer of our human condition. He seemed baffled from day one...haha...THANK GOODNESS for his type, however. They give us insight, if not direction, huh?