He and his writing shocked most of America, but he was a master of contemporary American literature. His dark humor, biting satire, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959. He didn’t get a lot of attention until the publication of Cat’s Cradle in 1963.
His most widely read and distributed book is the 1969 classic, Slaughterhouse Five, the life of Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time after his abduction by aliens by Tralfamadore. But the book, which is an easy read, was discovered to be a giant of anti-war sentiments. Its plot describes Vonnegut’s time as a German prisoner of war, when he witnessed the bombing of Dresden.
Vonnegut wrote a number of novels, short stories and picture books from 1952 to 2005. He was considered a science fiction writer, but he was more of a modern Mark Twain.
In 1970, Neil Young released “After The Goldrush,” and the words always reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five. Perhaps unrelated, the themes of understanding and longing seem similar.
After The Goldrush —lyrics by Neil Young
“Well, I dreamed I saw the knights
In armor coming,
Saying something about a queen.
There were peasants singing and
And the archer split the tree.
There was a fanfare blowing
To the sun
That was floating on the breeze.
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the nineteen seventies.
I was lying in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for replacement
When the sun burst thru the sky.
There was a band playing in my head
And I felt like getting high.
I was thinking about what a
Friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie.
Well, I dreamed I saw the silver
Space ships flying
In the yellow haze of the sun,
There were children crying
And colors flying
All around the chosen ones.
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun.
They were flying Mother Nature’s
Silver seed to a new home in the sun.”
Vonnegut’s phrase, “So it goes. . .” was a catchphrase picked up by millions and is rumored to be his epitaph. The image above was taken from his website.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and reader of Vonnegut’s works. See her work at QuinnCreative.com