Readers remember Vonnegut for his unique style

By Ellen Wrede 2009 and Briana McGeough 2008

“There was your life before Vonnegut, and then there was Vonnegut. Once you read him, it changed everything … Kurt Vonnegut was the writer who opened up the world,” David L. Ulin of the Los Angelos Times wrote.

When Kurt Vonnegut died this month at the age of 84, millions of his readers grieved because he would never again write another word. Fans of Vonnegut found his works to be revolutionary, completely different from the writings of all other authors.

Many Vonnegut fans literature won’t be the same without him.

“I think it could [have an effect], just because he was so unique and had such a different style of writing,” junior Nicole Elsbecker said.

In addition to his fanciful storylines, Vonnegut always seemed to be able to get his readers to think.

“I think he had a good way of getting his point across by using extreme examples,” CFHS senior Kathryn Graen said.

CFHS English teacher Jennifer Paulsen agrees that extremism was a significant aspect of Vonnegut’s work.

“He was a real absurdist. He exaggerated so that we get the point,” Paulsen said. In her modern literature class, Paulsen teaches what many consider to be Vonnegut’s most famous book, Slaugherhouse Five.

Another attribute that Vonnegut fans appreciate is his interesting perspective.

“I liked his wild and crazy style of writing, how it was really funny but really deep at the same time. He was a great American writer. The example, his legacy, will live on, I’m sure. It was a tragic loss to the American literary community. His darkly satirical way of thinking was an interesting look on a tragedy such as (the bombing of) Dresden (by U.S. forces during WWII),” sophomore Michael Miller said.

Though Vonnegut’s writing has gained him many fans, his writing does not please everyone.

“They either love him or they hate him. Either they lose their patience with how absurd he is and how things don’t always make sense right away, or they just catch right on to the humor and the point of the humor and really love him,” Paulsen said.

Vonnegut wrote 14 books, numerous short stories, and many articles and essays. However, there was much more to Vonnegut’s life than writing.

While serving in World War II, Vonnegut was captured by German soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. As a prisoner of war, Vonnegut was sent to cart the bodies of the civilians killed by the bombing of Dresden, Germany.

Vonnegut used his war experiences as ammunition for his writing. Twenty-five years after the war, Vonnegut wrote about his wartime experiences in the darkly satirical Slaughterhouse-Five, a best-selling novel.

Even 30 years ago Vonnegut discussed the world after his death.

“I want a military funeral when I die—the bugler, the flag on the casket, the ceremonial firing squad, the hallowed ground. It will be a way of achieving what I’ve always wanted more than anything—something I could have had, if only I’d managed to get myself killed in the war. The unqualified approval of my community. My relatives say that they are glad I’m rich, but that they simply cannot read me,” Vonnegut said in an interview with The Paris Review in 1977.

While Vonnegut never received the military funeral that he described, he certainly gained acceptance in the hearts and minds of many of his readers.

“It’s a real loss to American culture because he represented a voice of dissention,” Paulsen said.

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