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Archive for April, 2013

I suppose, I think I am hung up on Kurt Vonnegut.

I know I am a little late, since he died, or at least, probably, as I imagine he might say, he’s “outta here” or some damn description of it’s not a matter of dead so much as just gone, or missing, or not here or something I can’t pin down so well. And so on.

I guess it doesn’t matter too much that he’s dead anyway, because plenty of people write plenty about plenty of people that are…um…gone as it were, and so on.

I know of a Hemingway writer’s club of some sort, up in Michigan, I think. (Not his short story, Up in Michigan; I mean, rather, the club is located up in Michigan, I think. At least it should be, seems to me. I’m pretty sure it is. You’d think I’d take a minute to look it up on the Internet, just to make sure, seeing how we pretty much believe if it’s on the Internet it’s [got to be] true.

Anyway, plenty of people try to write like Hemingway, and maybe Vonnegut, too. I have, I suppose. Except when it comes right down to it, I really haven’t, because I haven’t been published – except by myself – and we all know that doesn’t count for doodly-squat. And of what I have written, none of it has been a short story, at least not that I know of.

Actually, plenty of stuff I have written has probably been just long enough to qualify as a short story, but none of it has actually been published, as I said before, so it wouldn’t count anyway, and so on. And the real problem anyway, is that it’s generally not good enough to publish. Trying to sound like Hemingway or Vonnegut is about the last thing I ought to be doing.

And then of course I know for a fact that when I have been writing anything I have not been thinking about how I could sound like Hemingway – or Vonnegut (except maybe now, stupidly, I think) – or Fitzgerald – or any of those other guys, and so on. Actually, I don’t know if there are any other guys; those are just the ones I can think of without going on the Internet.

Hemingway Society Conference

Ok, I’ll tell you a secret: I actually did take a couple of minutes to look up the Hemingway writer’s club in Michigan-thing. What I found is this: There is actually a gaggle of some damn sort, actually called “Hemingway Up In Michigan.” (And, by the way, now I guess I have to go back and capitalize the “I”s in the previous paragraphs, to make it correct, and so on; at least according to the way the group’s website has it: “In”, not “in”.) And actually, that’s just the 15th Biennial Hemingway Society Conference coming up again this year – in Petoskey, Michigan. The actual club or whatever it is, is called the Michigan Hemingway Society. I also found out they’re actually all over the damn place; every state in the Union, it seems. That’s about the last thing I feel like doing – joining a Hemingway club.

While I am at it, I’ll tell you another secret: I went ahead and tried to get back on the original topic by searching the Internet for a Kurt Vonnegut club, or at least anything close to it. What I found is this: not much, really. What I did find was the website for a book about Kurt Vonnegut: Writing Kurt Vonnegut ~ a biographer’s notebook, by Charles Shields.

The book is actually called And So It Goes, Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. And actually, I realize now I did not need to give you the title of the book and hyperlink it; the hyperlink itself will take you to the title. But frankly, I think that if Kurt Vonnegut can insert himself into one of his books – to the point where he is, as the author, actually having a conversation with one of the characters in the book, such as he did with Kilgore Trout; among others things discussing the fact that he is the Author and in fact the Creator of said character – Kilgore Trout – and Trout is confused by it (seemingly) but also distracted from it by other seemingly more pressing worries at the moment – then I think I can somehow get away with inserting a harmless little hyperlink that in the process might possibly cause a slight form of redundancy. And so on. If it does, well, I’m sorry. Anyway, there’s no such club or group or whatever that I can find. I found some other stuff along the way, too, but I wasn’t interested enough to look at it much. No clubs, though.

And So It Goes

That’s not the only difference between Hemingway and Vonnegut, by the way. Here’s another one: Vonnegut lived to be 83. Hemingway lived to just shy of 62. What I mean is what most people who know anything about Hemingway know – that he departed this life early; early at least from most people’s (I am guessing) perspective, in that when he decided to place the open hole end of a shotgun in his mouth and squeeze the spring-loaded release mechanism called a trigger, the resultant effect was an internal combustion of sorts; an explosion – which hurtled a handful of tiny lead or steel balls (I don’t happen to know which) at tremendous velocity down along the length of the barrel and out, and into the soft tissue of Hemingway’s body; his head to be exact.

A shotgun is a mechanical device with a long steel barrel and wooden piece on the opposite end to rest against the user’s shoulder and a spring-loaded trigger device that is to be squeezed by a finger. An explosive cylinder is placed inside it and is designed to be struck in such a manner that the explosive cylinder… well, explodes. It is a tool some people would say; a weapon others call it, that is designed to kill things. Animals perhaps; and sometimes small clay discs thrown into the air, and terribly, sometimes people get in the way. Or are put in the way. Or get in the way, and so on. The soft tissue of a person’s body is no competition for a handful of tiny lead or steel balls traveling at great velocity. He knew this. He was troubled, some people say; sick perhaps. I think so anyway, and I feel disappointed and sad even shocked when I think of it. It was July of 1962. I was just eight months old, almost to the day. Anyway, he decided it was time to go. And so on.

Here’s another one: the difference between Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald was 44 when he died. It is said he died of a heart attack. It is also said he was an alcoholic, had tuberculosis, and some other damn thing I don’t remember.

Anyway, each of these guys literally exhausted himself through his writing to some extent or other. Seems that old Kurt was the only one who figured out how to half-manage himself over the long-term. My guess is that 1) he was late enough that not only did he come into his own under some bit of influence by the other two, but 2) he watched what happened to them, or more correctly – what they did to themselves, and didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

So for some damn reason he ended up owning a Saab dealership on Cape Cod, and then of course, just living on Cape Cod, the combination of the business and the living probably gave some kind of crazy odd balance to his life, keeping him grounded a bit more by comparison, stuck in the mundane troubles of a normal life while living deep in his writing.

Perhaps more than any of this though, I’m guessing just being a Hoosier did a lot to preserve him.

He could sit in a New York City apartment before a scholarly, literary close friend and a tape recorder, rattle away about his latest book and the critic’s reaction to it, and sound the literary genius so much that, as I listen to the recording, my head spins. Like it does trying to deconstruction any piece of a Hemingway or Fitzgerald story –and on the other hand keep his overly simplistic sense of go-to-hell-give-a-damn humor. It seems to me his Hoosierness provided a lens through which to see – and more importantly filter – everything in-coming as well as out-going. And so on.

Well, anyway, I guess I’d wrap up the whole thing by making clear I probably ought to read Slaughterhouse Five again, and very decidedly avoid Breakfast of Champions with all the effort I can muster.

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