Kurt Vonnegut: The Master Who Insisted on Modesty

Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps the most-taken-for-granted of all our writers, died this week. No one has yet captured his unique blend of free thinking and self-deprecation, I think, although Tom Watson comes close for newcritics. For me, Vonnegut’s greatness came out of an unblinking insistence on the foolishness of arrogance, be it personal, military, or planetary.

A couple of quotes not to be forgotten; the first, from David Ulin‘s appreciation this morning in the LATimes:

"The good Earth — we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy."

And from an interview last year in Rolling Stone:

"I’m Jeremiah, and I’m not talking about God being mad at us. I’m talking about us killing the planet as a life-support system with gasoline. What’s going to happen is, very soon, we’re going to run out of petroleum, and everything depends on petroleum. And there go the school buses. There go the fire engines. The food trucks will come to a halt. This is the end of the world. We’ve become far too dependent on hydrocarbons, and it’s going to suddenly dry up. You talk about the gluttonous Roaring Twenties. That was nothing. We’re crazy, going crazy, about petroleum. It’s a drug like crack cocaine. Of course, the lunatic fringe of Christianity is welcoming the end of the world as the rapture. So I’m Jeremiah. It’s going to have to stop. I’m sorry."

Also from the LATimes, this lovely picture taken by his daughter Edie last year:

Kurt_vonnegut_by_edie_vonnegut_vi_2

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