Steve Young was my 11th grade English teacher. To him, I owe my love of Kurt Vonnegut. The reading list that year was varied- from James Joyce’s “Portrait of the artist as a young man” to William Faulkner’s “The sound and the fury” to Joe Haldeman’s “The forever war” and most importantly Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” which I loved- and is the only book I’ve re-read more than twice.
So- it really sucks to find out that Kurt is gone, less than three weeks before I was to go see him speak in Indianapolis thanks to my great friend Pam (who waited in line for 3 hours for the free tickets). Luckily- I took a day off several years ago- and drove to Cleveland to hear him speak in Severance Hall for a Case Western Reserve University event. That talk will be right up there with my first parachute jump, first time looking up from the bottom of a pool in Scuba gear, taking the controls of a small plane when I was 12, losing my virginity- you get the point.
But if there is one thing I didn’t know about Vonnegut until today- and one thing that makes me more happy than sad- is to read the following from the New York Times:
Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84: Paper – New York Times
“Cat’s Cradle” was published in 1963 and although it initially sold only about 500 copies it is widely read today in high school English classes, the newspaper said.
The book that I consider a “modern day bible” (and this quote will probably come back to haunt me) was a failure when it was published.
It gives us all hope, that our early failures may just be building the foundation to something great. Yes, Dad, what Steve Young failed to teach me about using apostrophes in the right places- may not matter as much as what Vonnegut taught me about persevering through failure to try to change the world to be a better place.
I think Kurt’s writing did that for all of us.
Hopefully, my parents will still be around to see their son make a difference.
So, Kurt, thanks for sharing your talents and wisdom. You will be missed- and so it goes.
In case you haven’t read any Kurt- I stumbled upon this video. Since Kurt is now laughing at us from the great beyond- I think I’ve found my new favorite person to read for him.