“God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell” by David Hoppe – selection #17 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠♠♠Three of Spades

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “short, Indiana-related nonfiction works”

The Selection: “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell” from the book “Personal Indianapolis,” a great collection of short essays. This particular piece deals with the author’s thoughts on the passing of Kurt in 2007. I have three other essays form this book yet to be drawn in my Deal Me IN challenge this year: “Education Testing: Just Doing my Job”, “Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often”, and “Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room”

The Author: David Hoppe. He has lived in Indiana since 1980 and is a contributing editor and regular columnist for the Indianapolis alternative weekly magazine, Nuvo. Find out more about him at his website: http://www.davidhoppewriter.com/index.html – you may also see and read some of Hoppe’s recent work at http://www.nuvo.net/blogs/Hoppe/

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this
year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

“God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell”

The Spring of 2007 was a rough time for Indianapolis’s literary community, as it marked the passing of one of the most famous authors our city and state has ever produced, Kurt Vonnegut. It was just a few years later, shortly after I started writing this blog back in January of 2010 that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opened in Indianapolis. This was undoubtedly a great thing, I thought, and then when I heard the library has its own book club, I was All IN (of course!) and have been a frequent attendee and supporter of the library ever since. Indeed, Vonnegut is probably THE one author for whom I’ve come close to reading “everything he wrote.” It probably will not surprise you if I say that all that reading has been time well spent.


Hoppe mentions in his essay that in 1991 he played host to Vonnegut who was attending a book festival (organized by Hoppe) called “Wordstruck” (nice name, eh?).  Anyway, he mentions that he had read Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” in college but “hadn’t picked up a Vonnegut book since” – Something he quickly rectified after meeting the author in person:

“Needless to say, I began reading the books – all of them, as their author took justifiable pride in saying, still in print. Oh, what I’d been missing! There was the humor, that dark sense of human comedy and hapless mischief. But there was also Vonnegut’s slapstick way of collapsing fact and fiction, like that boy he wrote about, roughhousing with his favorite dog on the living room carpet, as a way of seeking something like the truth.”  

Hoppe also takes issue with the many people who consider Vonnegut a cynic, but I think the problem here may just be semantics. Vonnegut’s pessimism can be crushing at times, and by my definition, he would still be considered cynical, just with a healthy dash of hope to keep him – and us – going.


This essay was very short (as are almost all in the book) and left me wishing that the author would have shared more of his thoughts on Vonnegut. I’ve since read several of the other “bite-size” essays in Personal Indianapolis and have found them a great option when I find myself with one of those abbreviated windows of reading opportunity.

_________________________________________________________________

On a personal note:

Vonnegut will always hold a special place for me, as he passed away shortly after I had “discovered” and begun to appreciate him. Added to that, the month after he passed away, my dad – more or less his contemporary – followed him into “the great mystery.” I had recently read Cat’s Cradle myself at the time and even quoted a passage from it as part of my remarks, which I’ll share below, at my Dad’s memorial service:

“Another famous Hoosier (if I may be permitted to phrase it that way), Kurt Vonnegut, also recently passed away at the age of 84. In one of his books, Cat’s Cradle, a certain quotation is, I think, quite appropriate here. A character in the book (Dr. Felix Hoenikker, the fictional inventor of the atomic bomb) had won a Nobel Prize and gave an abbreviated 4-sentence acceptance speech:

’I stand before you now because I never stopped dawdling like an eight-year-old on a spring morning on his way to school. Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn. I am a very happy man. Thank you.’

Now, although I would never describe Dad as having ‘dawdled,‘ I think he was indeed a very happy man for just these reasons, and perhaps those in attendance today can honor his memory by embracing the spirit behind this quotation.”

Card image above from https://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/

4 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    June 6, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your personal note, Jay. That’s a great quotation!

    For whatever reason, I read Vonnegut’s Slapstick in my mid 20’s and then never read anything else until you started blogging about him. I love his short stories and his scene in Breakfast of Champions where he puts himself in a Holiday Inn lounge watching his characters is absolutely classic.

    I definitely find him cynical but I don’t find him all that pessimistic. Hard to describe.

    Like

  2. Alex said,

    June 7, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Every time you talk about Vonnegut I get the urge to pick one of his books. Have only read Slaughterhouse-Five, but have Breakfast of Champions in my audible.com library. You should organize a Vonnegut celebration week!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. June 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Vonnegut, but I recall wondering at the time if he would stand the test of time. While I enjoyed it, and almost always do enjoy reading him, he felt very “of his time” to me. I think Slaughterhouse Five will have something to say to at least two more generations of readers but I wonder about the rest of his work.

    I found him when I was in high school and read everything by him that I could get my hands on. I think this still happens and that may be were his future lies. I can easily see two or three more generations of 17-year-olds finding tattered paperback copies of Cat’s Cradle and then scouring their library for more.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      June 14, 2016 at 7:21 am

      I think his novels age better than his short stories (even though I love the latter too). You are spot on about the youth being drawn to him even today and probably for at least the near future. I’m always pleased to see a bunch of young people at events in the area hosted by the Vonnegut Library.

      Like


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