Kurt Vonnegut RIP

April 12, 2007 | 2 books mentioned 5 2 min read

Awoke to the news that Kurt Vonnegut died. His death was somewhat unexpected, coming after a fall at his home in New York, but he lived a full life, even penning a surprise bestseller that put him back in the public eye in 2005. That was fun to see because, though Vonnegut may be one of the most important writers out there for me as a reader, most of his literary output came before I was born.

When I was a younger reader, I was a completist. I didn’t have knowledge of dozens of books and writers at my fingertips, so when I found a book I really liked, I would read everything by that author. And so it was that I read substantially everything that Vonnegut had written before I left home for college, starting with a late novel, Hocus Pocus, after finding it lying around the house when I was 14 or 15, and finishing up with Player Piano, Vonnegut’s first novel, on a long, late-summer car ride home from Maine, a few weeks before moving away from home. So, in many ways, Vonnegut was in the background through my teenage years, providing a vivid counterpoint to the mundanities of suburban high school life. His books are very important to who I am as a reader and a writer, so I’m sad to see him go.

Some links: My call for more people to read the lesser-known Vonnegut novels. The New York Times obit.

Update: Some of you may be seeing a lot of folks writing “so it goes” today in response to Vonnegut’s death. For those who are curious as to why, the phrase comes from what is perhaps his most famous book, Slaughterhouse-Five, where he wrote: “When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'”

Also, I found Vonnegut’s official site to be particularly poignant today.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. I don't know how to begin processing this information yet. Like you, Vonnegut was the background to my teenage years and as I've grown I've appreciated him even more. Mine began with a cocky teacher giving me "Slaughterhouse Five" to read because I was bored in his class… There should be a place, online or not, where people can tell the stories of their journeys through his work and how it impacted them… He was always an inspiration like that (though he probably would have laughed at the idea).

  2. I read my first Vonnegut book when I was about 18, and within a year, I had bought and read them all. I still remember scouring Toronto's used bookstores for anything and everything by him that I could find. A personal favourite will always be "Welcome to the Monkey House" – one of my all-time favourite short story collections.

    This was the guy that started it all for me, my love of fiction and my growth from an adolescent to an adult. And my realization that being an adult could still mean being whimsical, anarchic, and sly.


  3. We met him, once, in college, at UVA- he was older than us, but young, we were students, juniors, we wanted to hear him speak- we had read his books and were fans- it was the early 70's- Breakfast of Champions had just been published. He spoke about writing- it was a small classroom, with about 20 people there to listen, it had been advertised in a very little box in the Cavalier Daily, no where near the front page, he sat in the professor's chair, relaxed and answered questions for a long time, we went up to him and shook his hand – we were the only two that stayed and talked- we said we enjoyed his books and he thanked us and chatted with us as if he was not in a hurry to leave…His books are a part of our lives and give us a reason to slow down today and take a moment to say thank you.

Add Your Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.