It was beginning to feel strange that I hadn’t read any Vonnegut this December. In fact, I haven’t read any Vonnegut since December 31, 2014.
This year, I stayed at John Steinbeck’s house and climbed Fremont Peak. I went to Wrestlemania (solo!). A new kitten came to live with me. I let myself be vulnerable romantically, and got burned by someone I cared about. I crashed my bike and broke my brain, temporarily. Advanced Research Methods nearly broke me, and I came out of it with a kind-of coherent research proposal. And I found out, again and again, that my friends, my brother, and my saintly mother will get me through everything. Though it tested my limits, I am grateful for this year and grateful to begin and end it with Kurt Vonnegut.
I’m especially grateful for Vonnegut because, as is my New Year’s custom, I am really sick. I’ve been sitting here, all shaky and sweaty and generally gross, reading Vonnegut and wishing I could be at Churchill Square watching Matthew and Marina skate, or at Ngina’s party, or drinking with strangers at Aden’s house.
But reading Kurt Vonnegut is settling for nothing. For me, he’s long since entered ‘old pal’ territory. Reading this book, Armageddon in Retrospect, was like sitting down for a glass of whisky – or green tea with lemon and honey and for the love of god, where is my hot water bottle – with a dear old friend.
A dear old friend who’s really interested in talking about war. All of his writing is about war, really, but this book is actually all about war. Every essay and short story in this collection, the first of his to be posthumously published, is about war and peace.
The third thing in this book is an essay which ought to be mandatory Vonnegut, “Wailing Shall Be In All Streets.” It’s about his experiences in Dresden, and god, it will help you understand his work so much better. “It is with some regret that I here besmirch the nobility of our airmen, but boys, you killed an appalling lot of women and children.” The way he writes about it has that sardonic Vonnegut charm. But then you think about it and realize that he’s writing about something so horrifying the only way to write about it is with that sardonic Vonnegut charm, and that makes it so much worse. That’s the thing he did best: trick you into feeling things.
I am starting to feel a bit dizzy, so I think I will wrap things up here. I set a goal of 20 books, so to read 22 is a bit of a treat (though not great for my academic productivity or general health at this moment). I am going to wrap myself in one million blankets, now. And then tomorrow morning, I’m going to re-read A Dog’s Heart.
Books read: 22