EppsNet Archive: Kurt Vonnegut

Huckleberry Finn Banned Again

21 Dec 2015 /
Huck and Jim on the raft

A Pennsylvania high school has removed Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its 11th-grade curriculum after complaints from students who said they were made “uncomfortable” by the novel.

The school’s principal defended the decision to remove the book from the curriculum. “I do not believe that we’re censoring,” he said. “I really do believe that this is an opportunity for the school to step forward and listen to the students.”

He went on to add, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Because if suppression of material you deem objectionable is not censoring, what is?

As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!”

As every married person here knows, love is a rotten substitute for respect. — Kurt Vonnegut

Not Enough Information?

6 Jul 2014 /

Bertrand Russell declared that, in case he met God, he would say to Him, “Sir, you did not give us enough information.” I would add to that, “All the same, Sir, I’m not persuaded that we did the best we could with the information we had. Toward the end there, anyway, we had tons of information.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Any time I see a person fleeing from reason and into religion, I think to myself, There goes a person who simply cannot stand being so goddamn lonely anymore. — Kurt Vonnegut

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Known World by Edward P. Jones

23 Feb 2014 /

I bought this book and read it because it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. See, it says so right there on the cover: “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.”

Did you know there was a time in our country’s history when black people were bought and sold as property, sometimes by other black people? And did you also know that 15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance?

Human slavery is deplorable, yes, but at this late date, can it be deplored any more than it has been already? If you have new depths of insight into the hearts and minds of the participants, by all means offer them, but Jones doesn’t have them. Reading The Known World is like reading a history book, albeit with a little more authorial contempt for some of the characters.

It’s customary in book reviews to mention authors whose work is called to mind by the volume at hand. The reviews included in my copy of The Known World cite

If you want to say something nice about a black author writing about the American South, you can’t go wrong with a Morrison or Faulkner comparison, although comparing an author writing his second book to Faulkner (or García Márquez) makes as much sense as comparing a young composer to Beethoven or Mozart. (I can’t comment on the Toni Morrison comparison as I have to admit I haven’t read her work.)

The author that Jones most reminded me of is Kurt Vonnegut, who once wrote

I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, which I think I have done.

Jones follows the Vonnegut model of introducing a lot of characters of equal importance and weaving their lives together via seemingly insignificant details. Vonnegut has written better books than The Known World — most notably, in my opinion, Breakfast of Champions, although many people prefer Slaughterhouse-Five — but he did not win, nor was he ever a finalist for, a Pulitzer Prize.

So it goes.

Rating: 3 stars

I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead. — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

You Are Not Alone

7 Oct 2011 /

Many people need desperately to receive this message: “I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don’t care about them. You are not alone.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. — Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

In real life, as in Grand Opera, arias only make hopeless situations worse. — Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

Liberals and Conservatives

4 Oct 2011 /

If you want to take my guns away from me, and you’re all for murdering fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each other, and want to give them kitchen appliances at their showers, and you’re for the poor, you’re a liberal. If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you’re a conservative. What could be simpler?

— Kurt Vonnegut


3 Oct 2011 /

“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before,” Bokonon tells us. “He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

How Are Things Going?

2 Oct 2011 /

You go up to a man, and you say, “How are things going, Joe?” and he says, “Oh fine, fine — couldn’t be better.” And you look into his eyes, and you see things really couldn’t be much worse. When you get right down to it, everybody’s having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everybody. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much.

— Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

A Half-Assed Job of Anything

9 Aug 2011 /

It’s enough to make you cry to see how bad most people are at their jobs. If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

— Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

Facebook is Crushing My Will to Live

28 Feb 2009 /

Several ordinary life stories, if told in rapid succession, tend to make life look far more pointless than it really is, probably.

— Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday

To update that quote for modern times, replace “ordinary life stories, if told” with “Facebook status updates, if read.”

Oh the vapidity . . .

Responses to Tragedy

2 May 2007 /

Dinesh DiSouza, a noted conservative pundit, was moved in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings to say this:

Only the language of religion seems appropriate to the magnitude of tragedy. Only God seems to have the power to heal hearts in such circumstances. . . . Atheism seems to have nothing to say to people when there is serious bereavement or tragedy.

That’s not true. For example, one famous atheist response to tragedy is this: So it goes.

DiSouza also forgot to add that if you leave out platitudes, pleasant myths and happily-ever-after fairy tales, religion has nothing to say to people either . . .

Santayana: “I Told You So”

19 Feb 2007 /

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

— George Santayana

“Is that a fact?” she said. “Well–I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive. It’s pretty dense kids who haven’t figured that out by the time they’re ten.”

“Santayana was a famous philosopher at Harvard,” said Slazinger, a Harvard man.

And Mrs. Berman said, “Most kids can’t afford to go to Harvard to be misinformed.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard

Fun With Obituaries

10 Jan 2004 /

Several ordinary life stories, if told in rapid succession, tend to make life look far more pointless than it really is, probably.

— Kurt Vonnegut

Is that a fact? Let’s try it and see! Here are some excerpts from this week’s obituaries in the Irvine World News:

Continue reading Fun With Obituaries

Teaching Kids to Write

25 Feb 2002 /

Having students write essays about books accomplishes three things. It makes them hate writing, because it’s such a fruitless, uninteresting assignment. It makes them hate reading, because even books they enjoy are turned against them. And it probably makes them hate thinking, because the kind of analysis they’re forced to do is so strained and dull.

Joseph Weisberg

Continue reading Teaching Kids to Write