It has been a bad few weeks for some of the major influences in my life. First the tragic death in a car accident of my old film director friend and mentor Bob Clark, and now, after a fall in his apartment, the death of Kurt Vonnegut, author of one my ten favourite novels of all time, Slaughterhouse Five.
One of his most memorable lines is: “I don’t know what’s going on, and I guess I am not smart enough to understand if someone were to explain it to me. I think we are being tested by someone – or some thing – a whole lot greater than ourselves, and all I can do is hang around and try to be calm and friendly until it’s over.”
And another line of his from another of his novels that I love: “We have been put on this earth to fart around, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.”
I first read this book back in 1970 when I was fresh out of film school, saw that he lived in Cape Cod, phoned directory enquiries, got his number, and to my amazement, he answered! He was incredibly polite (far, far more polite than William Shatner – see much earlier blog!) to a squeakily enthusiastic and nervous as hell young man, and explained, very apologetically, that the film rights had already been sold. But he took my phone number (the very same payphone in the corridor from which I had received a collect call from Mr Shatner) promising to call back if the rights suddenly became available again. But he never did. Or maybe I missed the call…
If you haven’t read Slaughterhouse Five I urge you to. I loved also his Sirens of Titan, Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast Of Champions. His humour, his sense of irony and his essential profound humanity put him up on a pedestal for me as one of the truly great writers of the 20th Century.
Woody Allen once famously said, “I don’t want to live on through my work – I want to live on in my apartment.” Sadly we will just have to make do with Kurt Vonnegut’s work.
So it goes.