I finished my last Vonnegut book last night, "Sirens of Titan". I am not buying anymore of his books for a while. His reign is over, for now.
I loved "Letters" simply because it was Kurt's writing, as himself. Can I call him Kurt? I mean he's dead and all. I have always wondered what is respectable to a dead writer, using their full name or just simply calling them by their first. I imagine that once you have read so much of an author's work, you feel a bit close to them, so I will call him Kurt. The letters in this book spanned over many years, and to many random people. However, there were some people that he wrote to often, and those were the best letters. I really enjoyed his letters to Knox, his fiction editor at Colliers. He was blunt and thankful, and you can tell he held him in the highest regard. He looked to him for advice. He was maybe his best friend.
It's good to have best friends. A best friend is someone you can trust, with anything, and someone who will be honest with you when you are being foolish. Maybe you don’t have so many of them, but I have learned that “the real stuff” in life is about quality, not quantity. I have just a few best friends is all, but I am happy to have them. Those are the people you write letters to over a period of 50 years.
So, it seemed to me that maybe Knox was one of his best friends. He was very candid with him in some of his letters about his failing marriage to Jane, his love for Jill, and the ponderings on his children and their issues. He seemed very upfront about the musings of women. Even towards the end, he continued to write Knox about his personal and professional life. More than anything though, I think I loved his letters to his daughter Nanette. He called her Nanny, and they were just wonderful. My Dad has never physically written me a letter. He texts me and tells me he loves me all the time, because he knows I need to hear it. But maybe there is something more to hold on to if it's written down, in its physical form. His letters to her were the sweet and thoughtful words of a sometimes lacking father, but he still took the time to tell her he loved her, and all the wonderful things about her.
I love passionate men. That is not meant to be a creepy statement, but simply a fact. It is a rare trait these days I think, to find passionate men. For me, there is something so satisfying in hearing a man speak of the things he is so passionate about, even if maybe I cannot relate at all. My husband, for instance, is passionate about concrete. He can talk all day about it. It is not something I am particularly interested in, but we all need that something. When I try to talk out loud about the somethings I am passionate about, I usually become moderately lethargic, go into emotional overload, and cannot even finish a thought. It’s quite sad probably.
When I read or hear these things from men like Shakespeare, Vonnegut, Nabokov, JRR Tolkien, Carl Sagan, CS Lewis, Jordan Peterson, Neil Gaiman, Walt Whitman, and so many others; I wonder about all the men in my life. Does it really take 80 years, fatherhood, and two divorces to gain full clarity, careful affection, understanding, and warmth that Kurt shows his daughter in the letters to her? I mean damn, he compares her to shooting stars and lightning bugs. There is most certainly something to be said for a man that tells his daughter, his wife, his girlfriend, that she is his muse, his God, or his shooting star. So read letters. Put it on your bedside table ladies, or in the bathroom, fellas.
*one of my favorite letters of Kurt's, to Nanny*
Listen, “Sirens of Titan” is seriously a terrific book. I think that one of Vonnegut's gifts as a writer, is he has the sheer ability to take a novel that on its own, is full of layers and ideas regarding the meaning of life; and can still be entertaining to say the least. The fictional world building that he does; Mars, the Rumford’s house, the crystal caves on Mercury, and Titan itself, they all seem so amazing when you dream it up in your head. I have to say this though, I almost put the book down when the whole "Rented a Tent" thing started, but I am so glad I continued.
This book is about Malachi Constant. He is one of the richest men in the world. A series of strange events happens to him and he becomes part of the Martian army, travels to Mercury, then to Earth, and finally he ends up on Titan. Malachi is told his future by a man named William Rumford, and he tries as hard as he can to escape it. Every scene that occurs in the book, you see his prophecy coming into play. No matter what he does, he cannot escape his future. He ends up really in love, at the end of his life with Beatrice, which is quite sad too. She longs to be a great writer.
The main theme that I took away from this is that it doesn’t matter how hard you try to escape it, there is a set plan for your life, and it’s going to happen. I don’t know who makes that plan….God, Thor, Aphrodite, Zeus, hell maybe them all. I don’t want to ponder that here either, maybe that’s another blog post, for much later. There is also something else important too though. I think Vonnegut was saying maybe we all really do have a purpose, and maybe we will figure it out one day, but maybe we won’t be happy with it. Maybe you just have to make the best of it you know. I hope my purpose is something that makes me happy, or at least I felt meaningful.
Kurt looks at us with his cigarette hanging out of his mouth, spreads his arms outwardly towards the vast open space and says this, “None of us know the plan, or who is in control of it. But, we can all love each other and live day to day, for every moment. That is the only thing that gives this mess any meaning at all.” Or that’s what I think anyhow.
I have to get ready for work now. Thanks for wasting a minute.