Friday, September 28, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Again

The last time I posted about Kurt Vonnegut, I was pretty bitchy, and I've been feeling guilty about that ( no, really!). (Photo at left from BBC obituary fir KV.) So I thought I would make amends by letting him say a few words for himself. From various quotes pages on the web, I gleaned the following. Obviously, this is very much a matter of taste, but all of these seem to me witty, wise, or at the very least just plain interesting. Here are some of my favorites. You can find plenty more with the help of the nice folks at Google:

  • Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!
  • Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand
  • Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
  • We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
  • There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
  • Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.
  • If people think nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy.
  • People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.
  • True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
  • Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
  • I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, "Please — a little less love, and a little more common decency."
Some authors are very quotable (Mencken, Mark Twain, Emerson), while others who may have great virtues of their own are not quotable in that way at all (Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman). (In the latter case, it may be that they write in paragraphs rather than sentences.) Vonnegut was definitely one of the quotable ones.

[He said a lot of other things that seem less original and interesting to me, about how we have wrecked the planet, stole it all from the Indians, ought to love everyone, etc., and I appreciate that he had to keep saying these things, tedious as they are, because he thought they are true. But I resolved to be positive this time, so I'll just shut up.]

4 comments:

Drake said...

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

Would that we could know ourselves so easily!

Lester Hunt said...

Yes, this is a rather optimistic view in a way, isn't it? If we are self-constructed, we can't be very mysterious.

Ruchira Paul said...

No, no, Lester. Please be "negative" by all means! We say more interesting things when we are bitching - I know that I do.

And thanks for the quotes. I particularly liked these two:

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

Micah Tillman said...

I'd love to see him unpack that "liberal/conservative" quote (though I guess I'll have to unpack it with the help of the nice folks at Google now that he's no longer with us). I find political identity a fascinating subject.

Didn't Plato make essentially the same point about having to be a nut to want to be President in The Republic (though perhaps not so well?).

I think William James would totally agree with the "edge vs. center" quote. He was always looking to the extreme cases as a way of illuminating the nature of things.

And the "common decency" quote is great, as what is common and decent depends on your society. I wonder where the longing for normalcy turns into unconscious ethnocentrism.