Opening a Vonnegut book is like going home. I get this fuzzy good feeling, and this time wasn’t any different. The first words of the Deadeye Dick welcomed me to serenity, and then for the next thirty to fifty pages, I was lost. I couldn’t get into the book. The story felt pointless. I persisted as this is Vonnegut we are talking about and it paid off. I got my mood set, taste palette reset, and I entered Rudy Waltz’ life.
Deadeye Dick is a bittersweet story in the way only Vonnegut can tell. It is beautiful, compelling, and insightful, and darn well written. It is poetry about the pointlessness of weapons and their destructive capacity and poetry about how human existence is this bizarre misery with no meaning. The book left me with this contented melancholy and the words that sum up everything: so it goes.
As always Vonnegut makes me think. He writes in Chapter 26: “We all see our lives as stories, it seems to me, and I am convinced that psychologists and sociologists and historians and so on would find it useful to acknowledge that. If a person survives an ordinary span of sixty years or more, there is every chance that his or her life as a shapely story has ended, and all that remains to be experienced is epilogue. Life is not over, but the story is.” And he adds on: “It may be a bad thing that so many people try to make good stories out of their lives. A story, after all, is as artificial as a mechanical bucking bronco in a drinking establishment. And it may be even worse for nations to try to be characters in stories. Perhaps these words should be carved over doorways of the United Nations and all sorts of parliaments, big and small: LEAVE YOUR STORY OUTSIDE.” My eyes watered. Even now as I type this in, I can feel my eyes getting all misty. He is right. This is what often is forgotten by those who are to uphold laws, discuss what a good life is and base policies on them. They: politicians/nations and the rest of the lot do that by trying to write their own grand stories and isn’t that kind of far away from the idea of managing the common good?
Kurt Vonnegut is a master. His work keeps inspiring me as a writer and most of all as a human being. I have met no one else who speaks to me the way he does.
Thank you for reading!