Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n08)
Kurt Vonnegut: The Kids are Alright
posted: Apr. 20, 2007
"Maturity is bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything."
I am sure that every Indianapolis publication, writer, and literary expert is going to put their two cents in about the recent death of Kurt Vonnegut. While I may not be a literary genius or a seasoned editorial columnist, I want to throw my change in as well-because while I may be young and inexperienced (as told by numerous prospective employers), I believe that his work has, and will, continue to connect with every 20-something kid (that's right, kid) that takes the time to read something he penned during his Marlboro Red-filled lifetime.
My first experience with Vonnegut would be considered a "late one" in the world of literary elitists. I was 18, and the book was Cat's Cradle. The book was handed to me by a friend who stated: "You're in college. You seem confused. He might help." Thanks Pete.
While I cannot say to this day that Cat's Cradle is my favorite work of his, I fell in love with a particular quote pertaining to the sanity of kids:
"No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hand, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's. . . "
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."
When I initially read this quote, I realized that the downfall of my "generation" may be that we have certain life expectations that, in all fairness, may not be exactly realistic. There is no way that we can build a cat or a cradle from a piece of string that wraps around our fingers. Heck, I could never build a cat's cradle properly anyway-maybe I should have realized early on that it worked as a metaphor. But metaphors are absolutely ridiculous.
As I "matured," I grew to love Vonnegut's essays more than his novels (I welcome discussion on this. But remember, I am a journalist, not a creative writer), which were so blatantly honest and to the point that I could not help but wonder how he made writing the truth look so easy.
But that was the genius in him. People love him because he was honest; people hate him because he was honest. Kids my age love him because he promised us nothing, but gave us everything. Including this:
"Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."
Rene's Bakery in Broad Ripple leaves its own tribute to Kurt Vonnegut