I am absolutely at a loss as to why people love Kurt Vonnegut’s work.
This comes from a reader whose favorite author is Kafka. Dark humor is not something I stray from, nor do I ignore texts that use humor to mask the terror and hopelessness of some of the darkest human fears, including nuclear war and total annihilation that Kurt Vonnegut’s fourth novel, Cat’s Cradle, touches on.
Times were never simpler.
We like to think of the past as “simpler times,” something that is often used to make a joke and a slight wince in memory of how things used to be. But there has never been a time in human history where scandal, corruption, greed, and fury have not penetrated the mass existence. There have only been times when the envelope had not yet been pushed.
It can happen here, it is happening here, and because it will happen here, you best start packing heat; the overarching message of one of my latest reads, Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. This dystopian fantasy is so eerily relevant to our current political climate and the constant turmoil found in governments across our country that one can’t help but wonder if Lewis wrote this in preparation for the election of Trump.
The universe works in very strange ways.
I should learn to trust it perhaps more so than I have permitted myself to in the past, especially when it always seems like people or things show up randomly, totally unannounced, but always when you need them the most.
Such was the case with the sudden appearance of Joan Didion’s 2005 memoir The Year of Magical Thinking within my life.
I come from a moderately superstitious family; realistically bordering on the lower end of the moderate spectrum.
Being of Eastern European descent, my siblings and I were instilled with the number one archetypal Slavic fear ingrained by all good Slavic grandparents: do not fuck with ghosts.
Do not try to contact them. Do not go looking for them. Do not go bringing Ouija boards into the house and certainly do not get pissed off when you have a supernatural nuisance on your hands because we told you so. Just listen to this one thing, and don’t fuck with the ghosts.
So I never did, and I probably never will because my Baba taught me real good. But I absolutely adore horror books and films, especially ones that take a ghostly approach, probably because it is as far as my supernatural flirtations will ever go.
Full disclosure: I have never seen any of The Godfather movies.
I own nearly all of Béla Tarr and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s filmographies. . . but I have never seen any of The Godfather films, at least not in their entirety. This is a problem, a problem I have set out to solve. But like any good former English major, I have to read the book first, even if it proves to be 400+ pages of nothing but very creative ways to die before I can watch the three movies, each which are about three hours long of even more creative ways to die.
Well, Ms. McCullers, the heart may very well be a lonely hunter, but if you drag out a listless melodrama with little action, sparse characterization, and suffocate it with too many conflicting philosophical, theological, and political ideologies, the heart begins to beg for that very loneliness.
Mine pleaded to be left alone nearly every time I picked up Carson McCullers’ Southern American novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, originally published in 1940. But the TBR jar giveth a title to be read and the TBR jar taketh away. . . but only if I finish the book; those are the rules. And it’s not usually in my nature to abandon a text, but I came close several times with this book.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter takes place in a sleepy little Georgia mill town and centers primarily around a deaf-mute named John Singer. Singer attracts several other inhabitants of this town who find comfort in his listening and understanding skills; Mick Kelly, a tomboy who desperately wants to study music and is based on McCullers herself, Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, an angry, revolutionist African American doctor, Biff Brannon, the quiet owner of a local bar whose wife passes away, and Jake Blount, a misshapen alcoholic with Socialist beliefs. Together, these characters tiptoe around each other while still interacting, none truly able to communicate with the others.