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ISSUE 120 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/20/2007

Kurt Vonnegut not in heaven?

By Kirstin Fawcett
Copy Editor

Friday, April 20, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, oft proclaimed a humanist, presumably didn’'t believe in heaven. At least not the kind of heaven where he'’d find himself sipping strong drinks with Tennessee Williams, swapping sarcasm with fellow cynic Mark Twain or bemoaning Earth'’s petroleum depletion while watching airplanes fly past his perch on the pearly gates.

However, despite his nebulous spirituality, Vonnegut certainly believed in the afterlife. In perhaps his most famous novel, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Vonnegut wrote that, "“When a person dies, he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral.”" Therefore, Vonnegut devotees must maintain faith that, although 84-year-old Vonnegut passed away last Wednesday, he will always be present as long as his sarcastic yet sincere prose sits on library shelves.

Vonnegut died from complications stemming from a fall he had suffered several weeks before in his Manhattan home. Critics, readers and fans all across the nation have expressed their considerable sadness over the death of one of the 20th century’'s greatest novelists.

Looking back on Vonnegut’'s vast collection of novels, short stories and magazine articles, his work can be loosely summed up in a whole as “eclectic.” Dabbling in everything from science fiction to theology, one of the characteristics uniting Vonnegut’'s prolific writings was an underlying suspicion that something is wrong with the world. Vonnegut made these problems apparent through his well-honed sense of humor, utilizing ironic understatement to pinpoint frequent flaws in society.

However, Vonnegut never used his writing as an instructional vehicle. He often ended his works on a post-apocalyptic note, allowing readers to decide for themselves how such world-altering events could possibly have been prevented by the story’'s protagonist.

Vonnegut’'s final semi-autobiographical novel, “A Man Without a Country,” was an exception to the wry satire that unified his diverse prose.

By the age of 83, Vonnegut had ceased conveying his thoughts thematically. “A Man Without a Country” featured the blunt, finite opinions of Vonnegut’'s old age, transforming him from a mere social commentator into an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, the banality of consumer culture and the Earth’'s dwindling sustainable resources. Following the publication and release of “A Man Without a Country,” newspapers such as The New York Times hailed Vonnegut as the “cynic we need and the prophet we deserve,” cementing his past and present status as one of America’'s most relevant written voices.

I myself became an ardent fan of Vonnegut’'s writing at the age of sixteen. Jaded by my Catholic school’s mandatory religious retreats and scratchy wool uniforms, I immediately embraced the frank yet explosive satire of Vonnegut novels such as “Cat’s Cradle” and “Welcome to the Monkey House.”

In a society where the world’'s realism seemed to be sugarcoated by P.R. people, my parents and the principal of my high school, Kurt Vonnegut’'s literary works spewed messages that were occasionally angry, often fatalistic, yet never phony. I appreciated his candor then, and I will continue to miss his presence in the literary world far into the future.

Staff Writer Kirstin Fawcett is a sophomore from Bowie, Md. She majors in English.

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