[M]any years later, I came to understand that a number of intellectuals thought Vonnegut was for students—for the kind of immature, emotional readers who get caught up in Dune or The Fountainhead: a 'phase' author. But it's never struck me that there is a mature, dispassionate stance on death, greed, cruelty, and human weakness that sober-minded adults ought to graduate to, after reaching some arbitrary educational high-water mark, that would elevate them beyond Vonnegut's whimsically bleak philosophy. In 1945, as an American POW in Germany, he saw the human carnage of the Dresden firebombing. It shaped his tragicomic worldview; he never 'got over it.' Should he have? Are not some offenses worthy of unending outrage, even once we've accepted the fact that they have occurred and will continue to? Why would the telegraphic, absurdist elements of Vonnegut's books invalidate their originality or seriousness? Who decides that you can't outgrow Catch-22 but you can outgrow Slaughterhouse-Five?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
From Slate Magazine: By Liesl Schillinger