Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007)

One of the truly great writers of the Twentieth Century has died.

So it goes.

Update, the next day: As it happened -- "as it was meant to happen," Bokonon would say -- my niece was born on the very same day that Kurt Vonnegut died. So, as a joint welcome to her and farewell to him, I can't resist quoting one of Vonnegut's most famous passages (hell, it was even quoted in his NYT obituary) -- in which Eliot Rosewater welcomes babies to the world with an unconventional baptism:
"Baptizing?" ...
"I told her," said Eliot... "that I wasn't a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. I told her nothing I did would count in Heaven, but she insisted just the same."
"What will you say? What will you do?"
... "Go over to the shack, I guess. Sprinkle some water on the babies, say, 'Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know, of, babies --:
"'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'"

-- Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Chapter 7

Update 2: PZ Myers passes on a request from Vonnegut himself (corrected to match this (via BoingBoing)):
Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, “Isaac is up in Heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, “Kurt is up in Heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.
To honor the dead, then:

Kurt is up in heaven now.

Everyone laugh.

So it goes.

(More good KV quotes from poputonian at hullabaloo and d at lawyers, guns and money.)

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