Kurt Vonnegut is an author people tend to love or ignore completely (I’m not sure anyone can hate Vonnegut). I count Slaughterhouse 5 among my all-time favorite novels, but am not really a fan of his other books.
Whatever you may think of him, he said and wrote some wonderful things during his lifetime. Here are ten great and really rather wonderful things he said, about life and literature.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.
The America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.
True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
Anyway — because we are readers, we don’t have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next — and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis — at any time of night or day.
I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.
Wake up, you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?
If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
*This originally appeared on Bookriot, part of my writing-gig there.