Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

R.I.P., Mr. Rosewater

By Valerie Reiss, filling in for Amy.

The wonderful author Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at age 84.

Though I’ve buried many of the details of his amazing books deep into my adolescent psyche where they first bloomed (or rather, exploded), I know his snarky, brilliant, dark-yet-bright, absurd-yet-earnest, searing satires seriously shaped me–and zillions of others.

If you haven’t, I urge you to pick up “Cat’s Cradle” or “Breakfast of Champions” or “Slaughterhouse Five,” because they’re all wincing and soaring revelations, if a tad gritty–and often grapple with themes of existence, God, and religion galore. You should do this especially if you mainly know of him through “his” commencement speech–one of the Internet’s first viral links, and frauds about 10 years ago.


At age 14, I scrawled this beloved quote from “Cat’s Cradle” on my bathroom’s “graffiti” wall (I had a cool mom):

“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

And this, of course, was written nearby: “So it goes.”

<a href="
” target=”_new”>Here are many other great Vonnegut quotes.

The Times’ obit today talks about his work, including the metaphysical elements, here. It says that this quote from his novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” “summed up his philosophy”:


“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

That’s a philosophy that works for me. So it goes.

Do you have any favorite Vonnegut memories or quotes or books? Please share.

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posted April 12, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Well, the world is a sadder place today. Somehow I always felt – irrationally, I know — that the world might “turn a corner” toward peace and rationality, simply because of Vonnegut’s books.Vonnegut never shouted his criticisms. He laid them out with exceptional humor and humility. This, in my opinion, is his single greatest legacy (outweighing the substantial entertainment value of his writing) and one that should be imparted to our elected leaders. Posturing and maintaining an image may be the best way to stay in office or get elected, but it is not the best way to run a government.Vonnegut helped break down some of our cultural pussy-footedness. Someone needs to do the same in the political realm. If it happens, Vonnegut will have paved the way.

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posted April 13, 2007 at 12:17 am

I have always loved the funny, wildly imaginative, and absolutely dead-on writing of Kurt Vonnegut. Two phrases from “Cat’s Cradle” that came into our family’s lexicon many years ago and have remained: “Bokonon says, ‘Busy, busy, busy…'” (meaning people are incessantly busy making mischief or doing unnecessary things); and “a granfalloon” (a friendship that is shallow or a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist). I used to occasionally see Mr. Vonnegut on the streets of midtown Manhattan, where no one seeemed to recognize him–or perhaps they were just giving him privacy. I will miss his brilliance and truth-telling.

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posted April 13, 2007 at 12:54 am

While I loved each of his books for different reasons, my favorite is Mother Night. Especially the quote: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

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Laurie Sue

posted April 13, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Ah… memories… I loved his books. They shaped me as a young writer. He was an early idol of mine. in 1986 I was on a movie date with a man who talked too much, and turned out Kurt Vonnegut took the seat right next to me, with his wife next to him. We shared the same arm rest! I was so awed I tried all night night to rub my arm against his and to kept my date from talking so loud during the movie. When I moved to Manhattan, turned out Kurt Vonnegut lived in my neighborhood (Turtle Bay)and I used to see him all the time! Especially on 2nd Avenue. I imagined he’d leave his writers chair to stretch his legs a bit. But he went to the supermarket too! I could never bring myself to talk to him. But we’d smile and make ey contact every so often as we’d pass each other.

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