RIP: Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007)

Vonnegut

I haven’t read much Vonnegut, but there is one thing he wrote that has stayed with me for a very long time. It isn’t even from the primary text of one of his books, but from the forward to Slapstick:

This is the closest I will ever come to writing an autobiography. I have called it “Slapstick” because it is grotesque, situational poetry–like the slapstick film comedies, especially those of Laurel and Hardy, of long ago.

It is about what life feels like to me.

There are all these tests of my limited agility and intelligence. They go on and on.

The fundamental joke with Laurel and Hardy, it seems to me, was that they did their best with every test.

They never failed to bargain in good faith with their destinies, and were screamingly adorable and funny on that account.

I first read that in 1986.

My first wife had taken my infant son and left me. I was addicted to heroin and living in the attic apartment of a woman who had just left her husband and then settled down with a violent thug who occasionally came home and beat her. After one particularly brutal encounter, this woman turned me onto Slapstick. Somehow the idea of ignoring my circumstances and doing my best with every test captured my imagination.

I should probably read more Vonnegut.

So it goes.

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