Literary fame means nothing anymore

jackie.stark and jackie.stark

Kurt Vonnegut died on Wednesday, April 11.

Immediately after I heard the news, I felt a sense of loss that surprised me. I’d never met him before, and I wasn’t planning to, but his work was something that I had fallen in love with, and the thought of him never writing again was heartbreaking.

His unique style of writing is something I have never seen in any other books I’ve read. Sometimes, he interjects himself into his own novels as a character or as the narrator. Often these interjections coincide with his past life experiences. He makes himself a soldier in “Slaughterhouse-Five,” his most prominent novel. This book centers around a soldier, Billy Pilgrim, who survived the Dresden bombing, something that Vonnegut also lived through as a soldier in WWII.

He also puts himself into “Breakfast of Champions,” this time talking about his mother’s suicide and his fears that he may also try to kill himself. (He eventually did attempt to do so in 1984).

Despite his literary fame, many of the people reading this column have never read any of his work, and some have probably never heard of him before. While his death was covered by major papers such as The New York Times, it hasn’t received much television coverage.

In fact, Vonnegut once said, “One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”

While Vonnegut may have scorned an excessive amount of television coverage, more people would have known about his death had it been allowed more television coverage.

According to, children spend more time watching television than any other activity except sleeping. A staggering 56 percent of teenagers in America have a television in their room. American children aged 2-17 watch an average of almost 25 hours of televison per week.

Now, I’m not going to say that I never watch television, but I did manage to grow into a happy, healthy adult without having a television in my room. In fact, I actually managed to survive in a family of five with only one television in the entire house.

I was a statistical anomaly in my younger days: I spent more time reading books than watching television. My mother was the one who instilled in me a love of reading. When I was in middle school, she used to pass me the books that she had finished reading.

However, as I grew older, and was able to secure some money of my own, I began trying out books I thought looked interesting.

One of those books happened to be “Slaughterhouse-Five.” I checked it out when I was in high school. I remember hating it because I didn’t understand it. However, I picked it up again my sophomore year of college, and I couldn’t read it fast enough.

Since then, I’ve been trying to read as many of Vonnegut’s books as I can.

His insightful and satirical portrayal of the human race is what allowed him to be recognized as a literary contender. It is also what has made me a lover of his work. He has a deeper understanding of what it means to be human than any other fiction author I have ever read.

However, my love for Vonnegut’s work is not shared by as many people as I had once thought it was. In his final publication, a collection of essays titled “A Man Without a Country,” Vonnegut makes the following statement:

“And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ‘Kurt is up in heaven now.’ That is my favorite joke.”

Well Kurt, the joke’s on us.

So it goes.