Armageddon in Retrospect - 2015 Reading Challenge
Can we just come right out with it and say, that is a fantastic title. I love it.
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorite writers. I want to tattoo several of his quotes on me, but so many other people have done it that I would now feel like a copycat. He is known as "The wittiest man since Groucho Marx and the wisest since Karl Marx." (The Times)
Armageddon in Retrospectis a book of Vonnegut's previously (mostly) unpublished writings that was released by his son on the anniversary of his death in 2008. There is a beautiful forward by his son, Mark, describing life with his father and what it was like growing up with a man who saw so much evil in the world and tried so hard to remedy it.
He couldn't help thinking that all that money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries. It's hard to imagine that history won't prove him right, if it hasn't already.
Following the beautiful forward is 200 pages of letters, short stories, essays, sketches, and vignettes that seem like they're straight out of Kurt Vonnegut's notebook. He writes a letter home to his family, explaining how he was taken prisoner of war in World War II and what conditions were like in Dresden, Germany (the setting of several of his short stories and his infamous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five).
There is a hilarious short story, one of the many that justified me using this as my "funny book" for the 2015 Reading Challenge, called 'Guns Before Butter', where several prisoners of war keep diaries and compete to create the perfect recipe to satisfy their cravings when they return from the war.
There are stories set in the future, stories set in the past, and a humorous speech he was meant to deliver in Indiana that Mark ended up giving after Kurt passed away just a couple of weeks before.
Every piece of writing moved me in a different way, but one has stuck with me more than the others, 'Unknown Soldier.' It's from the perspective of a father who's baby was supposedly the first baby born in the 21st century, and how their family and the doctor who delivered the little girl got all these prizes for having the first baby, but then she passed away suddenly and they were shocked that no one cared. The media doesn't even turn up for the funeral.
Who wants to watch the burial of the next thousand years? If television refuses to look at something, it is as though it never happened.
This seems especially poignant to me in a day where more than ever, we are fed what we should care about by the media. Not just television anymore, but social media and blogs as well. We find the things that are trending and start talking about them too, so regardless of whether another tragedy has happened, we don't even notice if it doesn't have a little # symbol next to it.
Vonnegut was indeed wise, and his writing has something very special to it. While this little book of scrambled writings isn't my favorite thing that I've read of his, I would never consider a second of time I spent reading his work a waste.