Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

Kurt Vonnegut has died at 84.

That's really sad. Of all living authors, Vonnegut was the only one that I deeply wanted to meet. Every time I was in New York, I'd planned to see if he was doing any appearances, but I always put it off. My loss.

I began reading Vonnegut in high school. His last great book was Breakfast of Champions in 1973. He didn't think much of it.

In 1972, Harlan Ellison wrote in Dangerous Visions that he'd asked Vonnegut how his new book was coming along. Vonnegut reportedly told Ellison that he'd stopped working on it because "it was a piece of shit." Even so, Vonnegut completed Breakfast and it was quite good.

Breakfast was eventually made into a film, as were Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Mother Night, and Happy Birthday Wanda June. Although all films were faithful to his books, I didn't care for any of them. I don't think Vonnegut adapts well. You can't just film the story and dialog. For Vonnegut to work, you need his "voice," inherent in his prose. Take that voice away, and the resulting film carries the story's pessimism, but loses the black comedy that makes it bearable.

I also wonder, in this post-literate world of MTV and video games, if any contemporary novelist can be as influential as Vonnegut was with contemporary generations?

Also see my article on how Vonnegut's 1952 Player Piano works as a brilliant satire of today's Neocon America.

1 comment:

Bella Donna said...

"I don't think Vonnegut adapts well. You can't just film the story and dialog. "
Do you think that is why none of your novels were made into films?
Alas, such is the tragedy of literary genius....