Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Appy Daze!-- Kurt Vonnegut Lovefest

Ok.  I had meant to begin the first ‘Appy Daze weekly post yesterday, but personal circumstances (an argument, a headache, and a nasty dog scratch *ON MY FACE*) prevented my update.  As you can imagine, happy thoughts were not forthcoming.

Though my face still hurts and I remain terrified at the prospect of facial scarring (I’m a hypochondriac), I feel entirely better mood today and more equipped to write about happiness.

This week, I thought I would talk to you about my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut.  Vonnegut (1922-2007) was a novelist and essayist known for writing darkly funny works that fused humor and science fiction into one quickly devoured nugget of zaniness (how’s that for mixed metaphors, eh?).  Today, Vonnegut is probably most remembered for his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, subtitled The Children’s Crusade, sub-sub-titled A Duty-Dance with Death, a novel about the time traveling experiences of a World War II vet (and survivor of the 1945 RAF firebombing of Dresden, Germany).  Slaughterhouse-Five, you won’t be surprised to learn, is my favorite book.

For someone such as myself-- someone who has some traumatic events in their past-- Vonnegut’s works really resonate.  Like Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was a former POW and survivor of the destruction of Dresden.  From some of the autobiographical details that Vonnegut wove into his works, it would rightly seem that being a witness to such unfathomable horror was an event that Vonnegut was never quite able to surmount.  From my personal experience, I believe this to be generally true about trauma: you are never able to “overcome” your trauma, you’re only able to come to terms with its presence.

Vonnegut’s work is a testament to life after trauma; In Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle (one of my personal favorites), and Breakfast of Champions among others, Vonnegut constructs narratives among the ruins of life.  The story goes on even when we know what’s going to happen or what has happened; time is secondary, time stops when the world as you know it has crumbled in front of you.

As depressing as that may sound, it’s terrifically uplifting for people like myself who have struggled to overcome a difficult past.  Often, life seems as though it will never go on, as though nothing worthwhile can emerge from the wreckage of your life.  Not only was Vonnegut able to create works about the wreckage of life, he was able to do so with a sense of humor.  There’s hope, at least for me, among the atomic bomb blasts and super-freezing chemicals that populate Vonnegut’s work.

You may never make sense of your own trauma, but if you can pull an amused, Vonnegut inspired smirk at life’s absurdities and slights, well, that’s half the battle.  

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