Thursday, April 12, 2007

Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time

If you haven't heard the news, Kurt Vonnegut, the standardbearer of seriously sardonic writers, died yesterday after sustaining injuries in a fall a few weeks ago. He was 84.

Vonnegut's best-known works are Slaughterhouse-Five, which provides this post's headline, and Cat's Cradle, which introduced the world to "ice-nine" and, by extension, the catastrophe that could befall us at any moment in a postnuclear world. Sometimes dour and always dealing with somber subjects, Vonnegut injected an everpresent, and quite genuine, sense of humor, which made his works quite accessible.

To simultaneously entertain and edify is a hard trick to pull off, but Vonnegut made it seem less so. The absence of his voice from the crowd will be conspicuous, and will diminish the crowd by several orders of magnitude.

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