Since there isn’t anyone reading this blog, I think I will please myself alone and write about MY writer, the writer who wrote things for me, though he may not have known he was writing for a chubby girl in New Mexico. How did he come into my life? I’m not sure. I am almost certain it was by way of my oldest brother Dean McCollaum. Dean was always bringing home books that had been assigned to him in his various colleges, and I was drawn to them–moth to the flame, moth to the flame.
The first one I remember clearly is Cat’s Cradle. It’s really an amazing book, about how things can go just terribly wrong, in a moment. It centers on the idea of helping Marines get out of battling in the mud, an invention that causes water to freeze at much higher temperatures than it does now. It’s a totally terrifying book, but funny, as are all Vonnegut’s books (except the beautiful and highly readable short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House). The world is no longer a home at the end of the book. It’s a hell-scape. Every time I look out my window and see the sunshine; every time I hear the breeze rush over the needles of the pine tree in the yard, I am grateful for this world we have. What a gorgeous home we have been given. Perhaps that sentiment is the reason Vonnegut is my writer. He would express goofy and cliche sentiments like that but in ways that were not at all cliche.
He once claimed that all his novels were actually of a piece, made to hang like a great tapestry of story, linked together in the same way the glow of stars along the galaxy edge form the Milky Way. He didn’t put it exactly that way. Still, he said they all went together, and they do. I have read them all. This is no small brag. He wrote a good deal. Still, I have read them all. I love them all, some more than others. I have a signed copy of Jailbird, thanks to Dick Wilken. I have a first edition of Breakfast of Champions. The one most people probably know is Slaughterhouse Five.
Vonnegut among his many accomplishments, lands his work like nobody else. If you ever read him, you will not fail to be amazed by the way his brings his narratives to a close. The endings are totally right, perfectly suited to the story he tells and masterfully crafted. You can really see this in Slaughterhouse. He uses the phrase “So it goes” ninety-nine times in that book. I KNOW it’s not by accident. It’s by design. His works seem like easy, off-the-cuff rambles, but they most definitely are not. They are crafted, designed and any number in them comes of careful consideration.
In Slaughterhouse he manages to create a story about war that does NOT allow the reader to cry, and he does this by reminding that reader when and how each character will die when that character is introduced. You don’t get that cathartic cry at the end of Slaughterhouse because Vonnegut promised he would not let it be the “typical” war story with heroes and villains. War is not noble. It’s a shame, and Vonnegut makes it a shame on all of us.
I think I’ll start reading him again this week. That is, after I finish re-reading Heart of Darkness. So it goes.