Sunday, November 11, 2007

So it goes.


From today's Writers Almanac.
It's the birthday of a writer who was also a veteran, Kurt Vonnegut, born in Indianapolis (1922). He was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge and was forced to work in a Dresden factory producing vitamin-enriched malt syrup for pregnant women. He slept in a meat locker three stories underground, and that was the only reason he survived the firebombing on the night of February 13, 1945, when British and American bombers ignited a firestorm that killed almost all the city's inhabitants in two hours. When they walked outside, Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners were just about the only living people in the city. They were then forced by the Germans to help clean up the bodies.

Vonnegut spent the next two decades writing science fiction, but he knew he wanted to write about his experiences in Dresden, and finally did in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), about a man named Billy Pilgrim who believes that he experiences the events of his life out of order, including his service during World War II, the firebombing of Dresden, and his kidnapping by aliens. He decides there is no such thing as time, and everything has already happened, so there's really nothing to worry about.

Kurt Vonnegut, who also wrote Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965), Breakfast of Champions (1973), and many other books. He once said, "If you make people laugh or cry about little black marks on sheets of white paper, what is that but a practical joke? All the great story lines are great practical jokes that people fall for over and over again."

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