Two things must happen today. I must escape the office – in the midst of a short-staffed quarter-end – long enough to run downtown (and then back) for the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library book club meeting, and I must, MUST finish Dostoevsky’s The Idiot!
I’m in the home stretch of the latter, with perhaps 90-minutes of reading to go. My feelings about this book have been very ambivalent (“very ambivalent?” can one say that?), and I look forward to trying to write a post about it. It’s one of the more quotable books I’ve read this year, and I find myself highlighting a ton of observations and witticisms. But it’s also just crazy. It’s “all over the place,” and I don’t really know from one chapter to the next what the plot or theme is supposed to be. After reading the autobiography of Anthony Trollope earlier this year and about his attention to plot detail, I suspect he would run from The Idiot in terror…
For the KVMLBC, we read “Wampeters, Foma, and Granfallons,” which is essentially a collection of Vonnegut’s non-fiction writings or transcripts of speaking addresses he gave at various places. This was a much easier read for me, although I must say I begin to grow fatigued with Vonnegut’s pervasive pessimism about our species. He’s so brilliant and “convincing” though that it’s difficult to escape “unscathed” (or “un-depressed?”) after reading him.
These two books briefly intersected in Vonnegut’s essay “Excelsior! We’re Going to the Moon! Excelsior!” (one of my favorite ‘chapters’ and originally published in the New York Times). He talks about the important symbolism of the first human footprint on the moon and quotes the Russian: “One sacred memory from childhood is perhaps the best education,” said Feodor Dostoevski. Vonnegut also says, “I hope that many Earthling children will respond to the first human footprint on the moon as a sacred thing. We need sacred things. The footprint could mean, if we let it, that Earthlings have done an unbelievably difficult and beautiful thing which the Creator, for Its own reasons, wanted Earthlings to do.” Very nice.
I’ll let you know later how things went today. My time at the coffee shop is running down and I must report to the salt mines, er, office, shortly…:-)
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