Mark Vonnegut on his dad, Kurt

One neat thing about the Kindle is that it lets me keep track of passages in books that I particularly like, and from time to time I go back and look at them and think about what they might mean. (The user interface to this, however, is really, really painful and not very useful. Hopefully they’ll work on it, not to mention make it easy to use my Kindle to blog passages when I mark them as interesting.)

Anyway, I blogged a while about the posthumous Kurt Vonnegut collection called Armageddon in Retrospect — a reasonably good collection of some of his writing. But I forgot to share a few particularly good paragraphs from the introduction, written by his son Mark. Listen:

He taught how stories were told and taught readers how to read. His writings will continue to do that for a long time. He was and is subversive, but not the way people thought he was. He was the least wild-and-crazy guy I ever knew. No drugs. No fast cars.

He tried always to be on the side of the angels. He didn’t think the war in Iraq was going to happen, right up until it did. It broke his heart not because he gave a damn about Iraq but because he loved America and believed that the land and people of Lincoln and Twain would find a way to be right. He believed, like his immigrant forefathers, that America could be a beacon and a paradise.

He couldn’t help thinking that all that money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries. It’s hard to image that history won’t prove him right, if it hasn’t already.

Reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that things have to be the way they are, that you are alone, that no one has ever felt the way you have. What occurs to people when they read Kurt is that things are much more up for grabs than they thought they were. The world is a slightly different place just because they read a damn book. Imagine that.

That’s about as good an elegy as you’ll ever read.

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