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“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Image courtesy of Vonnegut.comIs anyone else thinking of Kurt Vonnegut today? I am. You probably know why.

I picked up a copy of Breakfast of Champions many, many, many years ago. I read it on a train traveling across Europe – drinking wine, meeting new people and exploring cities. It made me feel far away from Indianapolis and in a way, it felt good. He was unlike any author I had ever read.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Kurt Vonnegut was from Indianapolis. From that point on, I took immense pride in associating Indianapolis with Kurt Vonnegut. Indiana can stake claim to some pretty famous people – Steve McQueen, James Dean, Florence Henderson….but come on, Kurt Vonnegut! Pretty cool.

Breakfast of Champions was the first Vonnegut book I read, but the rest of his work followed quickly. I’m happy to recommend many of them to you, but I still consider Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse-Five and The Sirens of Titan as my favorites. I would love to hear yours.

This post isn’t really a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut. Lots of people have written better tributes, and a quick google search will reveal plenty, but here is a pretty nice video tribute.

I really connect with a lot of Vonnegut quotes (see blog title). And in terms of kindness, I wanted to once again thank my office neighbor at the IMA (and future IMA blogger), Anne Laker, who was in the middle of organizing an event with Kurt Vonnegut and his artist collaborator Joe Petro last spring. The program instead became a tribute event that was touching and thoughtful. Anne, knowing I was big fan, gave me Kurt Vonnegut’s signed IMA contract as a gift. It hangs in my office and serves as reminder to many things – picking up Breakfast of Champions for the first time, being a humanist, his humor, insight, and creativity and, that he made Indianapolis proud.

Blogs are supposed to be about participation – so what I really hope happens here, is that in the spirit of online participation – you will share some of your favorite Vonnegut books, stories, or quotes.

I really would love to read them and I’m sure others would too.

And finally, has anyone heard Tock Tick? If not, you should!

Filed under: Local, Musings

8 Responses to ““God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.””

  • avatar
    Meg Says:

    I was raised on the Book of Vonnegut. Because of my father’s great admiration for the author, the moral lessons that I learned as a child were deeply rooted in his writings. Here are a few of the best lessons taught to me by my father and derived from Vonnegut’s work:
    1. Be good to people because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’ll be rewarded.
    2. Life can be absurd and unfair, but it’s better than the alternative.
    3. Humor is essential. Always choose laughter over tears.

  • avatar
    No Name! Says:

    Favorite book: either Slaughterhouse 5 (it had been banned in my high school) or Cat’s Cradle (reminded me of my own family).

    Favorite bit: The farting and tap dancing alien who was beaned on the head when he tried to warn some people of their house being on fire (Breakfast of Champions.. right?).

  • avatar
    Matthew Says:

    Thanks for this post Daniel. I’ve been thinking about Kurt quite a bit the past few days myself.

    Last year around this time I was getting ready to meet him when he came to IMA for his talk. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. The morning they reported that he had died I’ll never forget. My wife was leaving for work and came to tell me goodbye (I still had another 1/2 hour to sleep). She shook me and said something to the effect of “I’m leaving…and honey, I’m sorry but Kurt Vonnegut died.” Later when I got up I was convinced that I had dreamed it.

    So, instead of shaking his hand I later found myself writing a message to him in the memorial book that Crown Hill set up for his family.

    Among the various things hanging over my desk is a copy of one of his “Confetti” prints. (The ones they ran in Nuvo all last year). It’s one of my favorite quotes: We are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” When I’ve had a rough day it always puts things into perspective and I feel just a little bit better.

  • avatar
    Daniel Says:

    Thank you to everyone for submitting your thoughts. They were very nice to read. I’m going to reread one of his books soon. Not sure which though.

  • avatar
    J. Phillip Hoff Says:

    I am 62 years old. My father and Kurt’s father were friends and young Kurt was often in the hardware store. In the novel “Jailbird” Kurt used the song “Ruben, Ruhen”. [Mine vater ver Rubhen (undt post 1940 Ruhben) Heinrich Hoff, [Son of Christian]. I remember as a “junge”, trips to see Herr Vonnegut at his hardware store. My father became a true German tool and die Maker at E. C. Atkins. He bought his toolchest from Herr Vonnegut. I still have it and do not have family to pass it on-to. Is there a museum or resting place that could use items purchased from the original Vonnegut store?

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  • avatar
    Daniel Says:

    Thanks for the comment. I just e-mailed you…

  • avatar
    Sean Says:

    Sorry this is coming a little after-the-fact, but a Google search for “Damn it Joe, you’ve got to be kind!” led me to this article.

    Kurt Vonnegut is probably the person with the single biggest influence on my life. I’m slightly ashamed to give him the honor, as opposed to a family member or someone I’d actually met, but the fact remains: this man has touched my life. I fully intend to name my firstborn son after him (and to a ever-so-slightly lesser extent Kurt Cobain).

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