Kurt Vonnegut, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, is dead. Oh, shit. Vonnegut wrote 14 novels. He had fallen several weeks ago and received brain injuries. He was 84.
My first Vonnegut was Breakfast of Champions. I'd never read anything like it. It was a novel that was so easy, everything just happening, one thing after another. The book almost read itself. That was his gift, I think: to tell you things that were hard to hear, without you even noticing it. Like a nurse who can slide a needle into your vein without making you wince.
Vonnegut has haunted me, delighted me, and made me sad. I still think of the world in terms of Wampeters, Foma, and Karasses, the Boknonism ideas set out in Cat's Cradle. I still think that "Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time," may be the best opening line of any novel — and that the novel, Slaughterhouse 5 lives up to that line.
In 1944 he was shipped to Europe with the 106th Infantry Division and shortly saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge. With his unit nearly destroyed, he wandered behind enemy lines for several days until he was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Dresden, the architectural jewel of Germany.
Assigned by his captors to make vitamin supplements, he was working with other prisoners in an underground meat locker when British and American war planes started carpet bombing the city, creating a firestorm above him. The work detail saved his life.
Afterward, he and his fellow prisoners were assigned to remove the dead.
(Image ganked from Wikipedia)