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Kurt Vonnegut Was Dead Before He Died
In These Times ^ | 08-06-04 | Kurt Vonnegut

Posted on 04/15/2007 4:52:26 PM PDT by SeafoodGumbo

I Love You, Madame Librarian

By Kurt Vonnegut August 6, 2004

I, like probably most of you, have seen Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Its title is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury’s great science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451. This temperature 451° Fahrenheit, is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury’s novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.

And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.

And still on the subject of books: Our daily sources of news, papers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books can we find out what is really going on. I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published near the start of this humiliating, shameful blood-soaked year.

In case you haven’t noticed, and as a result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war lovers, with appallingly powerful weaponry and unopposed.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were.

With good reason.

In case you haven’t noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound and kill ’em and torture ’em and imprison ’em all we want.

Piece of cake.

In case you haven’t noticed, we also dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything.

Piece of cake.

The O’Reilly Factor.

So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and the Chicago-based magazine you are reading, In These Times.

Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed that there were weapons of mass destruction there.

Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn’t even seen World War I. War is now a form of TV entertainment. And what made WWI so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun. Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don’t you wish you could have something named after you?

Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now am tempted to give up on people too. And, as some of you may know, this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.

My last words? “Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse.”

Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.

----------- and here's another vulgarity by Vonnegut ----------

But in 2005 he truly went off the deep end. In an interview today with David Nason of the Australian, [Vonnegut] makes the following assertions:

As Nason stringently puts it, "Vonnegut's comments are sharply at odds with his reputation as a peace activist and his distinguished war service. … [They] are likely to make many people wonder if old age has finally caught up with a grand old man of American letters." (November 19, 2005)

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: antiamericanism; author; authors; bds; kurtvonnegut; proterrorist; usefulidiot; vonnegut; vulgarian
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To: ken21
i thought adolf hitler was a cultist, and anti-christian.

He was, but it's kind of like Belushi in Animal House. "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"


"Don't worry about it. He's on a roll."

Vonnegut was a nut. As an artsy fartsy type in college, I devoured Slaughterhouse 5 and Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions. The last piece of his I read was Slapstick. This was the novel that made me realize he wasn't deep, he just had a crappy outlook on life. I never bothered with his stuff after that.

21 posted on 04/15/2007 5:26:01 PM PDT by Richard Kimball
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To: SeafoodGumbo
"Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain...."

The only truthful line in the entire piece.

22 posted on 04/15/2007 5:27:57 PM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: SeafoodGumbo
I, like probably most of you, have seen Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

Clearly I am not in his target audience. Good-bye.

23 posted on 04/15/2007 5:28:47 PM PDT by sionnsar ( |Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: SeafoodGumbo
In case you haven’t noticed, we also dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything.

Despite the implication Vonnegut is making about the Iraq War, I'm sure he was equally condemning of Slick Willie's adventure in the Balkans in order to get his scandals off the front page.

Vonnegut is as droll as the fiction he wrote.

24 posted on 04/15/2007 5:30:05 PM PDT by Quick or Dead (Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms - Aristotle)
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To: SeafoodGumbo
This dope drank the Kool Aid. Good riddance.
25 posted on 04/15/2007 5:31:58 PM PDT by johniegrad
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To: ew73
It seems to me Vonnegut was doing something too few people do these days and trying to put himself in the shoes of those that oppose us.

Sounds like you drank the Kool Aid too.

26 posted on 04/15/2007 5:33:03 PM PDT by johniegrad
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To: wildcatf4f3

Nobel invented dynamite. Well, he invented the combination of the stuff that makes dynamite blow up, anyway.

Any History Channel Geek knows that, LOL!

27 posted on 04/15/2007 5:36:14 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: wildcatf4f3

Nobel invented dynamite. Well, he invented the combination of the stuff that makes dynamite blow up when you want it to, and is safe when unlit, anyway.

Any History Channel Geek knows that, LOL!

28 posted on 04/15/2007 5:36:49 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: Volunteer
My friend was his niece and a Christian..... She referred to him as the black sheep of the family. She did not mean that in a hateful way, they did not agree with his thinking and thought him odd.
29 posted on 04/15/2007 5:36:51 PM PDT by Kimmers (Coram Deo)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

Strike Post #27. ;)

30 posted on 04/15/2007 5:37:25 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: weegee

Vomitgut offered no viable alternatives to our bombing Germany into submission in WW2. If we had let up our attacks, how many more Jews would have died in concentration camps? How many more would have died in Hitler’s attacks on England? Thankfully, his ilk wasn’t running the war. It’s like the pacifist Left today. Don’t invade Afganistan and overthrow the Taliban. Discuss the issues with them and in the meantime allow them to kill more people.

31 posted on 04/15/2007 5:38:41 PM PDT by Free ThinkerNY ((((Truth shall set you free))))
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To: SeafoodGumbo

After trying to read that tripe the word doofus came to mind.

32 posted on 04/15/2007 5:39:50 PM PDT by freeforall (Answers are a burden for oneself, questions are a burden for others.)
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To: SeafoodGumbo

Good riddance. I guess Norman Mailer can’t be far behind, bless his soul.

33 posted on 04/15/2007 5:40:39 PM PDT by Nonstatist
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To: Free ThinkerNY

It’s easy for cowards to take cheap shots from the safety of their homes.

34 posted on 04/15/2007 5:40:44 PM PDT by johniegrad
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To: ew73
While he may not agree with their actions,

You'll have to elaborate - that's not immediately clear to me.
35 posted on 04/15/2007 5:43:10 PM PDT by beezdotcom
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To: ew73

“While he may not agree with their actions, their motivations were clear to him, and he seems to admire their conviction, if not the resulting actions of those convictions.”

That’s an excellent observation. I started reading Vonnegut in 1973 when I was a teen. “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse Five” were the first I read, recommended to me by a newly returned Vietnam Vet.

I’ve taken a long pause, and now have “Jailbird” and “Bluebeard” in my “Never-ending Stack of Books to Read” and screw his politics; I don’t agree with the politics of John O’Hara, but d@mn the man could write a fine story! I don’t agree with the politics of John Steinbeck or Annie Proulx, but they deliver the goods, too.

The “Black and White” crowd here at FR sometime fail to realize that sometimes a cigar is JUST a cigar, LOL!

36 posted on 04/15/2007 5:44:04 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: All
Vonnegut had his high points and low points. As he aged his low points outnumbered his high ones, however, here is one of his high points I'll always regard as genius:
Harrison Bergeron

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.   

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.   

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.   

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.   

On the television screen were ballerinas.  

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.  

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.  

“Huh?” said George.  

“That dance – it was nice,” said Hazel.  

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.  

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.  

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.  

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.  

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “All the things they think up.”  

“Um,” said George.  

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday – just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”  

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.  

“Well – maybe make ‘em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”  

“Good as anybody else,” said George.  

“Who knows better’n I do what normal is?” said Hazel.  

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.  

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”  

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.  

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”  

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.  

“You been so tired lately – kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”  

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”  

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean – you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”  

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”  

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.  

“There you are,” said George. “The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”  

If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.  

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.  

“What would?” said George blankly.  

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?”  

“Who knows?” said George.  

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and gentlemen – ”  

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.  

“That’s all right –” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”  

“Ladies and gentlemen” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men.  

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me – ” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.  

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under–handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”  

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen – upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.  

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever worn heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H–G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.  

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.  

And to offset his good looks, the H–G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle–tooth random.  

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”  

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.  

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.  

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God –” said George, “that must be Harrison!”  

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.  

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.  

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.  

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.  

“Even as I stand here –” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”  

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.  

Harrison’s scrap–iron handicaps crashed to the floor.  

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.  

He flung away his rubber–ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.  

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”  

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.  

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all, he removed her mask.  

She was blindingly beautiful.  

“Now” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.  

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”  

The music began. It was normal at first – cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.  

The music began again and was much improved.  

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while – listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.  

They shifted their weights to their toes.  

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.  

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!  

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.  

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.  

They leaped like deer on the moon.  

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it. It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling.  

They kissed it.  

And then, neutralizing gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.  

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.  

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.  

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.  

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George.  

But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.  

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying?” he said to Hazel.  

“Yup,” she said,  

“What about?” he said.  

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”  

“What was it?” he said.  

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.  

“Forget sad things,” said George.  

“I always do,” said Hazel.  

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.  

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.  

“You can say that again,” said George.  

“Gee –” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”

37 posted on 04/15/2007 5:45:03 PM PDT by Tinian
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To: SeafoodGumbo

“F—k me? Hey, Kurt, can you read lips, *F—k You*! Next time I’ll call Robert Ludlum!” - Rodney Dangerfield (Back To School)

38 posted on 04/15/2007 5:46:21 PM PDT by dfwgator (The University of Florida - Still Championship U)
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To: jim35

Yet he was stuck in a basement during the firebombing of Dresden. I cut him some slack, but he was certainly unhinged. I used to love his books, but then I enjoyed Hunter S. Thompson too.

39 posted on 04/15/2007 5:50:32 PM PDT by ichabod1 ("Liberals read Karl Marx. Conservatives UNDERSTAND Karl Marx." Ronald Reagan)
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To: LibFreeOrDie

Bonus Points... how did Nobel die?

40 posted on 04/15/2007 5:51:10 PM PDT by ichabod1 ("Liberals read Karl Marx. Conservatives UNDERSTAND Karl Marx." Ronald Reagan)
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