Sally in the garden, sifting cinders

April 7, 2007

Over the course of a rather enjoyable evening[1] last night, I managed to get in a conversation about Vonnegut. Naturally, once I made my way home[2] I had a tremendous urge to read some Vonnegut, since it had been quite a while since I’d read anything of his. (In the past two or three years, other than a few articles and such, all I’d read was Welcome to the Monkey House (yet again) and Mother Night.) Upon looking at my bookshelf, though, I was suddenly reminded that during the heady days of my near-obsessive Vonnegut mania and evangelism, I’d managed to lend out the bulk of the books that I owned, and I had only a vague recollection of who the recipients might have been.[3]

So it goes.

Anyway, I settled into reading Jailbird (that and Rosewater were my only choices, and Jailbird won the coin toss), and immediately remembered why I love Vonnegut’s writing so much. I also immediately remembered the fan letter I’d once started writing to him, the one that will probably never be written or mailed, though the sentiments it was intended to articulate were and still are entirely sincere.

So it goes.

Anyway, upon reaching Chapter 1 of Jailbird I was thrilled to discover that this was the one with the guy who would sit quietly and periodically clap his hands three times. So my initial disappointment at not having Breakfast of Champions at hand was immediately replaced with delight that I was able to read the book I’d subconsciously wanted to read even more.

Anyway, I just wanted to cite a couple of excerpts that seem particularly apropos or something:

The tragedy of the planet was that its scientists found ways to extract time from topsoil and the oceans and the atmosphere—to heat their homes and power their speedboats and fertilize their crops with it; to eat it; to make clothes out of it; and so on. They served time at every meal, fed it to household pets, just to demonstrate how rich and clever they were. They allowed great gobbets of it to putrefy to oblivion in their overflowing garbage cans.


“You told a fragmentary truth,” he said, “which has now been allowed to represent the whole! ‘Educated and compassionate public servants are almost certainly Russian spies.’ That’s all you are going to hear now from the semiliterate old-time crooks and spellbinders who want the government back, who think it’s rightly theirs. Without the symbiotic idiocies of you and Leland Clewes they could never have made the connection between treason and pity and brains. Now get out of my sight!”

* * *

[1] There are a lot of things or activities that I am indifferent towards, or don’t particularly care for, but will do or take part in to indulge someone else. There are comparatively few that I actively dislike. Many forms of dancing (and ‘dancing’) fall under the former category. Last night, though, I came to the conclusion that being in a throng of people bobbing vaguely to the rhythm of a shitty R’n’B song is decidedly in the latter. Other than that, though, I had a great time.

[2] As I exited the Metro station in the wee hours of the morning, I was slightly dismayed by the little cold things that kept landing on my face. Until, that is, I finally realized they were snow and became overjoyed.

[3] But then, even if I knew exactly who had them (which I actually do for a couple), it seems kind of strange to go up to somebody and say “Hey, remember that book I lent you 5 years ago? You know, the one I completely forgot about? If you’re done with it I’d like to have it back.” Like it’s somehow presumptuous for me to want something back even though it’s mine and (as I recall) I even wrote my name in it. Of course, my real concern could just be that I might have to give back the books I’ve accidentally stolen from their rightful owners over the years. But what are you supposed to do when, a few weeks after lending you a book, the guy drops out of school (or something), disappears off the face of the earth, and you never see him again? And I didn’t even finish reading that book (at which point, incidentally, I immediately lent it to somebody else, as if it were mine with which to do so) till last month, which was about six years after I began it.

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