Friday, April 13, 2007

Farewell Kilgore Trout

The passing this week of Kurt Vonnegut was strongly felt here, as he is one of my favorite authors. I first was keyed into Vonnegut by a high school English teacher (by the name of French!) and started reading a few. When I got to college, I started plowing through the whole shelf of Vonnegut novels & catching his few last ones as they came out. If you've never savored the ever-relevant bitter humor of Mother Night or the absurdity of Cat's Cradle, you're missing out. Breakfast of Champions & Sirens of Titan are great fun too, and even the lesser works have lots of good bits in them. Vonnegut isn't for prudes, though has texts are really pretty tame compared to a lot of other literature before and after (e.g., my current soul-enriching time sink, The Good Soldier Svejk -- now there is some inspired vulgarisms!)

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I enjoy reading good obituaries. Not that I'm happy to see someone pass, but good obituaries teach you something you didn't know -- perhaps because you never knew the person existed (but should have), but other times because you didn't know something interesting about a familiar figure. I never knew that Vonnegut had studied to be a biochemist. I think Asimov was also originally a biochemist as well -- but surely to group them in this way is to engage a granfalloon. Hi Ho!


Unknown said...

Inspired vulgarisms in Svejk? Did you find them in the Czech original or an English translation? If the latter, I'd like to know which one.

To learn more about Svejk, visit SvejkCentral. There is also a new English translation.

Keith Robison said...

I wish you had challenged me on that back a ways; I don't have the book now (library copy) & my memory fails me on what struck me so strongly.

I should try the new translation sometime. Alas, I know a handful of words in a handful of non-English languages but no Czech, and trying to read anything in a foreign language is too frustrating for my patience. I wish it weren't so, and I do usually skim the product instructions in German (the one language I had formal schooling in), but I just never learned enough vocabulary to really make a go at it