In My Brain / 04 / Vonnegut

I was 15 years old when Kurt Vonnegut hit me square between the eyes.

The literature, not the man.

I pulled Slapstick off of my next door neighbors' bookshelf during the week that a snowstorm had cancelled school.  I was bored and lonely and appropriately angsty, and I would get lost staring at the wall of vintage trade paperbacks in their house.  My parents were never big readers, so I would try to find bits of myself in other people's books.  This collection represented how cool and interesting the neighbors were, an idea that was magnified at the time in contrast to my perception of my parents, who were neither of those things*.  These books, with their faded covers and torn edges, had been loved in a way that I loved books.  The neighbors used to live in New York City, and these spines were bent on long subway rides and in parks and coffee shops, and all of it seemed more suitable than my suburban high school reality.

In retrospect, I wouldn't have started my self-taught Vonnegut course with Slapstick.  The syllabus would've been completely thrown.  It's probably not a book that has changed too many lives.  In the repertoire it's fairly unremarkable.

But so it goes.

Without getting too into it, or giving you too much room to doubt my sanity and sense of reality, I'll just say that Mr. Vonnegut and I have an understanding that borders on religious.

Anyway, he's turned up a few times in my various feeds lately, and I think the following are worth sharing with all humans:

THE SHAPES OF STORIES  //  Vonnegut's rejected thesis from the University of Chicago.  I plan to work this into a lesson for my students soon.  And if you're going to read/watch anything today, it should be this.

LETTER TO XAVIER HIGH SCHOOL //  There is advice in here we might all consider living by. Practice any art ... no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

TERM PAPER ASSIGNMENT  //  Vonnegut was a teacher, and likely a memorable one.

WRITE A GREAT STORY  //  Advice from someone who should know.

Enjoy, readers and writers.

*The neighbors are still tremendously cool.  But I know now what I didn't realize then: my parents are downright exceptional.

1 comment:

  1. Your parents are indeed exceptional, and have clearly passed it down. As for the neighbors, well..the books are still there and currently the youngest is reading Vonnegut's "Bagombo Snuff Box" And so the thread continues all these years later.
    You never cease to make me smile.