12 April 2007

Lonesome no more.

Somehow it seemed appropriate, on learning this morning of Kurt Vonnegut's death, to go and put my hands on some of his books as soon as possible. One of the advantages of working in a library is that you can do that straight away. So I did. I got ten of his books off the shelf and piled them up on my own desk.

As co-workers walked past me they'd take note of the pile of books. Some had heard of him, some had read one or two of his books. Some hadn't but asked about him our of curiosity. Since they weren't really my books, a couple of people even took a book with them, to read or maybe just to skim. But that's good, I guess.

I suppose it's strange to be typing away with a lump in my throat for someone I never actually met. But from the age of 12 onwards Vonnegut and his simple, brilliant stories and novels were a major influence on my life, and the lives of many of my generation and background. I once became friends with someone simply because we'd struck up a conversation about the slogan on the back of their leather jacket - it read: "Schlachthof Funf".

If I were still a smoker, I would have probably sparked one up in memory of Mr. Vonnegut, who chain-smoked untipped Pall Mall most of his life. But, the little plastic nicotine inhaler is as far as I go these days. So instead I spent my lunch break reading his latest book, A Man Without A Country. Though not a "book" proper, more a collection of essays and speeches, it's as warm, funny, moving, bittersweet and ultimately human as anything he ever wrote. This particular bit jumped out at me.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


Fair enough.

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