One of my favorite writers (and humans) ever, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., died six years ago yesterday.
If you know me personally, you would know how much I love Kurt Vonnegut. He has been a monumental literary hero in my life. I read my first book by him (Cat’s Cradle) on a boring summer day, in front of my computer, not knowing what to expect. I fell in love with his words and his dark, dark, dark humor and humanity always resonated with me.
I went on to read more of his works (pirated, on my slow PC), then started building up a humble legit Vonnegut collection on my shelves. I still remember the first time I saw a Kurt Vonnegut paperback. It was in Fullybooked and when I saw five of his books lined up in a shelf, I stifled a scream. I have to buy those books! And I did, eventually, after painstakingly saving up for it. There are so many things you will do for love.
It’s rare to find a hero that speaks so well to you, and very wonderfully tells the things you wanted to say, but couldn’t. Or don’t know how. I related so well with him through his works. He was my spirit animal – Kurt Vonnegut was cynical (as I was), but he was also hopeful (as I came to be). He taught me that you can be both. To paraphrase a fellow fan, Steve Almond,
Vonnegut has seen the worst of human conduct, and refused to lie about it. But he has not allowed his doubt against humanity curdle into cynicism… With his books, Kurt Vonnegut converted grief into laughter by means of courageous imagination. Like any decent parent, he had made the astonishing sorrow of the examined life bearable.
Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” Alackday, and fuck my luck – that became the method to my madness in dealing with horrifics and my occasionally joyless life. We are all fucked and are going to die, but things are still funny.
We’re all part of a granfalloon, Mr. Vonnegut! I never knew you, but I miss you. Thanks for all the stories.
Darden gave me this book to read last month and I am forever grateful for this gift. That girl is a well of cult favorites, which Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito is. It is a wonderful book, but not without its own flaws as you will soon be reading in review snippets that I wrote down as I was reading it. I am glad to have a copy of this book not just because I wouldn’t have found out about this on my own, but also because the prose is lyrical and quirky and I know I will enjoy going back to some of the most inventive phrases I’ve read in a long while.
Blip Korterly kicks off a game of graffiti tag on a local overpass by painting a simple phrase: “Uh-oh.” An anonymous interlocutor writes back: “When?” Blip slyly answers: “Just a couple of days.” But what happens in just a couple of days? Blip is arrested; his friend, Dr. Flake Fountain—a molecular biologist—is drafted into a shadow-government research project conducting experiments on humans. The virus being tested—cleverly called “the Pied Piper”—renders its victims incapable of symbolic capacity; that is, incapable of communication. Is this biological weaponry? What would happen if it were let loose on the world? Does a babbling populace pose a threat or provide an opportunity for social evolution?
March 10, 2013
Vigorito loves words. He loves the sound of them, their tumble and play, and he is definitely not afraid to use them. Ten pages in and I marveled at how cute and cheery the book was – very reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s works, but not as fascinating nor as good. KJV’s writing has always been memorable in its bouyancy as much as in its conciseness, while Vigorito invests on lengthiness and a wide vocabulary to make a point. Vonnegut’s works are crisp, while Vigorito’s are full and fluffy.
March 13, 2013
I wish Vigorito showed some restraint in his writing. He has the knack for clever turns of phrase, but when your sentences last forever, and your playful language spirals down into tediousness and redundancy, it distracts the reader from what you are trying to say. Vigorito’s disproportionate creativity is getting in the way of telling an entertaining story. I get it, you have so many ways to prove a point, but please, please just get to it.
March 16, 2013
I’m finally done with Just a Couple of Days after trying to squeeze it in between work, family and trivia nights (lol). My final thoughts?
I enjoyed the book – it is legitimately hilarious and the plot is familiar yet offbeat. It is also very engaging in parts where the story actually moves along, and not just glide by. I did not feel anything for any of the characters, even if Agent Orange reminded me of Agent 355 (Y: The Last Man), which is sad since there could have been many ways to glorify all the other characters in the novel. The characters Flake hated, I hated all the more because they were all one-dimensional. Even Blip and Sophie were a bit one-dimensional and I couldn’t quite stitch how the unanswered questions, and the billboard graffiti all fit together. They were so thoroughly discussed in earlier parts of the book so reaching the end of the novel left me wondering if there was something I was missing. Was it gaping plotholes or is the story too layered for my busy brain? I guess I’ve become spoiled in the story-telling cohesion that other quirky writers (e.g. Douglas Adams) are masters of.
I laughed out loud in many parts of the book. As I mentioned in an earlier review snippet, Tony V. is clever, but I have been rolling my eyes to the back side of my head over paragraph upon paragraph of funny, artfully fashioned but very, very, very repetitive prose. It would have been a far greater book if it did not suffer from an amateur habit of making the same point over and over again. I wish Tony matures enough to tell a great story with wisdom and discipline that comes with…I dunno. Writing workshops? Reading classic works of art? Age? Whatever it takes, I know that he has the talent for weaving a great story and I’m excited to pick up another Vigorito maybe 10, 15 or 20 years down the road.
If you like Tony V.’s Just a Couple of Days, you have to check out Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (then move on to his other works because he is my favorite author in the whole world), and then maybe some Christopher Moore (whom I belatedly noticed has a recommendation on the book’s cover). Their stories are as witty and humorous but with an admirable frugality of words that Tony Vigorito lacks.
This book is so meta. I wonder if Tony reads David Foster Wallace, because long run-on sentences are so DFW, too.
I have read four novels by him through pirated e-books but this guy deserves to be rich even in death. He’s just too good. So, I went broke for four of his books.
Yay. 🙂 I’m a happy fangirl.
Classic Kurt Vonnegut quotes:
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. – Kurt Vonnegut, “Cold Turkey”, In These Times, May 10, 2004
Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. -Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
NOTE: This post is not meant to be an advertisement for lending these books. I will not lend them – not yet anyway.