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Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dies At 84 380

At least twenty-two readers took the trouble to make sure we knew that Kurt Vonnegut has died at 84. From the Times obituary: "Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' 'Cat's Cradle' and 'God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater' caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan... Mr. Vonnegut suffered irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago, according to his wife, Jill Krementz." Reader SPK adds: "He will be remembered not only as a great writer, but also as a staunch civil libertarian (long-term member of the ACLU) and as a 'mainstream/literary' author who integrated science fiction concepts into his writing. So it goes."
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Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dies At 84

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  • by djdead ( 135363 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:59AM (#18701677)
    God made mud.
    God got lonesome.
    So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!"
    "See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
    And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
    Lucky me, lucky mud.
    I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
    Nice going God.
    • by mstahl ( 701501 ) <marrrrrk AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:02AM (#18701717) Homepage Journal
      I wonder if he died while thumbing his nose at God.... It would seem a fitting gesture.
      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:38AM (#18702091) Homepage Journal

        I wonder if he died while thumbing his nose at God.... It would seem a fitting gesture.

        The inability to conceive of a God who would find that amusing is the biggest reason that belief is on the decline.

        The idea of an omnipotent God who creates a creature capable of reason, then throws an eternal hissy fit when that creature doesn't spend all his time telling God how wonderful He is... Well it seems like rather insecure behavior for an all powerful, all loving being.

        A God who didn't want anybody in heaven unless they had the spunk to spit in His eye would make more sense. So Vonnegut, you're in. Give my regards to Twain when you see him.

        • by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:59AM (#18702231)
          This reminds me of a sign I pass every morning on my way to work. It is a sign for a Muslim Community Center. Now, I'm not picking on Muslims here, I'm sure there are plenty of Christian churches with similar signage. Anyway, the sign says something to the effect of "Men were created to worship God."

          Every time I pass that sign, it strikes me as funny. After all, how insecure does God have to be to go to all the trouble of creating an entirely new species just to tell him how great he is? Couldn't he have saved himself a lot of trouble by standing in front of a mirror every morning doing self assurance exercises, a la Stuart Smalley? Or maybe some good old fashioned Prozac?
          • by Philip K Dickhead ( 906971 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:05AM (#18702325) Journal
            Tiger got to hunt
            Eagle got to fly
            Man got to ask his self
            Why, why, why?

            Tiger got to sleep
            Eagle got to land
            Man got to tell his self
            He Understand

            --Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
            • by DjMd ( 541962 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @12:44PM (#18704017) Journal
              Vonnegut from "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,"
              "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies - 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.' "

              my feeble attempt at an epitaph

              "Goodbye, Mr. Vonnegut. God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.
              You told us about ice, you told us about fire. You made us laugh and taught us to think. Your time here was too short. But you gave us a lot more than one rule, you gave us someone to root for."

              I'm sorry its no Vonnegut...
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by MoronBob ( 574671 )
            The Bible states "God made man that he might have joy". I would rather focus on this belief. I did not have children so they could worship me. I want them to have all that I do and much more. I did not get to go to college but I will make sure they have that opportunity. God is our parent. He asks us to follow the commandments. He does not strike us down if we don't. But we must live with the consequences of our actions and this grieves him when we make bad choices. The evangelical belief that if you don'
          • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:57AM (#18703183) Homepage

            [...] the sign says something to the effect of "Men were created to worship God." [...] how insecure does God have to be to go to all the trouble of creating an entirely new species just to tell him how great he is?
            Well, you correctly see that possibility as ridiculous. But monotheists (the 3 major monotheistic religions are perhaps similar enough in that respect) would also see it as ridiculous. So really, you are misunderstanding what they mean when they put up a sign saying "Men were created to worship God."

            It isn't that an omnoipotent god benefits from it somehow, of course he doesn't. To say otherwise is blasphemy, even, for monotheists. However, they believe that the natural state for human beings is to worship god. In other words, people benefit from worshipping god, not vice versa. Note that the quoted sign can be understood both ways.

            Of course, you can raise skeptical doubt about why god would create people at all, and why worshipping him would be good for them. Such doubts are natural, and indeed the major monotheistic religions have had centuries of debate about these topics. So, my point is that the monotheistic belief system (speaking generally) makes more sense than your misinterpretation of that particular sign.

            (To prevent misunderstandings, I am a complete atheist.)
            • by C0y0t3 ( 807909 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:24PM (#18704737) Homepage
              I have to disagree with your interpretation of a pretty straightforward phrase, "men were created to worship god". Although it could be seen as meaning what you suggest, that men benefit from worship, the statement is obvously designed to be at least initially interpretted as "the purpose for which men were created was to worship god, god created us to worship him". You have to bend over pretty far backward to see the other interpretation as primary, but most religious people probably perform these sorts of logical contortions without batting an eye daily if not continuously. theres no need to justify them, controversy is supposed to occur. they are not content with your atheism
            • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:33PM (#18704911) Homepage Journal
              Why is it that atheists know theology better then the worshipers?
              • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:43PM (#18705063)
                Because Atheists question, and read. "Believers" simply believe, and by doing so think that all the questions are already answered.

                I can't say who's right, but I can certainly say I raise my kids to question everything, even me, if they don't understand it.
              • by Johnny5000 ( 451029 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:46PM (#18705125) Homepage Journal
                Why is it that atheists know theology better then the worshipers?

                I think learning enough about theology is probably enough to turn anyone into an atheist.
                Read enough holy books, and you'll realize they're lovely fictional works that do contain some generally good lessons, but couldn't possibly be the work of a superhuman being.
              • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @02:16PM (#18705647) Homepage
                Why is it that atheists know theology better then the worshipers?

                Do you mean, why do I presume to understand religion better than a person who believes in it? Or, on the contrary, do you mean that the believers are misled about their own beliefs? I'm not sure.

                In any case, I think that knowledgable people know more about everything. A learned believer, or a learned atheist, will know about the same. But the vast majority of people are unlearned in such matters. As a consequence, the majority of believers do not fully understand the complexities of their religion, while all of the atheists who are interested enough to learn about religion will know quite a bit (but exactly the same as the learned believers). That may be misleading at first glance, of course.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Bush Pig ( 175019 )
                  There are two reasons, it seems to me. One is that atheists are generally smarter and better educated than believers. The other is, that it's useful to understand the mind of your enemy.
      • Oddly enough, he died while I and some co-workers were watching Mother Night (based on his story).

        A rather disturbing coincidence in the light of the next day....
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bill Wong ( 583178 ) *
      God made mud.
      God got lonesome.
      So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!"
      "See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
      And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
      Lucky me, lucky mud.
      I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
      Nice going, God.
      Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have.
      I feel very unimportant compared to You.
      The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look
    • And so on.
    • Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan seems to have been a huge influence on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: in Sirens, one of the jokes is that the entirety of human history results from the meddling of an alien species.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      No one ever dies. He's just unstuck in time.
    • by DG ( 989 )
      NOT EVEN


      (Curse the lameness filter! Curse it! To force me to insert meaningless drivel in order to preserve the proper formatting on quoted bloody text!)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I just heard some sad news on slashdot - Horror/Sci Fi writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr was found dead in his Manhattan home this morning. There weren't many more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to mercurian culture. Truly an American icon.
  • So long, Kurt... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lurker2288 ( 995635 )
    ...from those who have taken a flying fuck at a rolling donut, or a flying fuck at the moooooon.

    Another one bites the dust. Ho hum.
  • by drewzhrodague ( 606182 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:03AM (#18701723) Homepage Journal
    Thanks for the good reads, Kurt. Time to go through my bookshelf, and do a little rediscovery. Thanks so much.
    • by Scott7477 ( 785439 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:29AM (#18702013) Homepage Journal
      A big part of my appreciation for Vonnegut lies in the fact that his work has been accepted as literature by the literary elites while including elements of science fiction. Typically science fiction is not considered to be literature.
    • Thanks, Kurt! Slaughterhouse-Five was the single most important factor in the "A" I received in my college fiction other book kept my attention as well.

      Being dyslexic, I'm not one to read for pleasure, but your works are worth the effort. I'm looking forward to when my kids are old enough to share in your tales and we can have ice-9 discussions as I had with my dad in the 80s.

      My condolences go out to the family.

  • a little less love (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:03AM (#18701733) Homepage Journal
    a little more decency - please.
  • So it goes (Score:5, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:06AM (#18701765)
    and another thing, Vonnegut... I'm gonna stop payment on the check!
  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:08AM (#18701781)
    to give that man 10 more years.

    The world is truly poorer for his loss. :-(
  • by objekt ( 232270 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:08AM (#18701785) Homepage
    Oh man, all this time I thought Kurt Vonnegut AND his son Kurt Vonnegut Jr. were both authors. Now they are BOTH dead!

    • Hehe. Their son, Mark [], is still alive if that's any consolation.

      You should check out his book, The Eden Express. It details his personal struggles with schizophrenia, among other things. Fascinating reading.

  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:11AM (#18701819)
    Kurt's up in heaven now..
    • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

      by jamie ( 78724 ) * Works for Slashdot <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:29AM (#18702017) Journal

      Anonymous cowards can be funny sometimes. By way of explanation, here's an excerpt from Vonnegut's book God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian:

      I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of regards or punishments after I'm dead. My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves "Freethinkers," which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?"

      I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great, spectacularly prolific writer and scientist, Dr. Isaac Asimov in that essentially functionless capacity. At an A.H.A. memorial service for my predecessor I said, "Isaac is up in Heaven now." That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. It rolled them in the aisles. Mirth! Several minutes had to pass before something resembling solemnity could be restored.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

      by sherpajohn ( 113531 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:31AM (#18702041) Homepage
      'Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.' - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922-2007)
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      No, he's bouncing around between 1945, a zoo on Tralfamadore, and a speech he gave last year.
  • by penp ( 1072374 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:13AM (#18701833)
    So it goes.
  • from wikiquote (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:14AM (#18701843) Homepage Journal
    If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


            * Vonnegut's Blues For America 07 January, 2006 Sunday Herald
  • I just read my first Vonnegut novel a few months ago (Slaughterhouse-Five). I just started Breakfast of Champions a couple days ago. This writer that I'd somehow never heard of, who'd written Slaughterhouse-Five, instantly one of my favourites of all time, is now dead. Deeply depressing.

    So it goes, I guess. So it goes.
    • fwiw - you've got a ton of great books still to go - and if you make it through all of them, you'll get to experience the joy of going back and finding out they are just as awesome the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th or 5th time around. i just finished bluebeard a month or two back for the fourth time, but i hadn't read it in a while, and it was awesome still. i'm so glad a sliver of his genius is preserved in print.
  • So it goes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:18AM (#18701903) Homepage
    My best Vonnegut moment was when I was watching that Rodney Dangerfield movie "Back To School" in a theatre. In one scene, there's a knock at the door, and Rodney opens the door, and it's a curly-haired guy who is his tutor for the writings of Vonnegut. That's when I started laughing. Three seconds later, after he says that he is Kurt Vonnegut, the rest of the audience starts laughing.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      No, the funny part is the later scene when the professor says "...and I don't know who wrote this paper on Kurt Vonnegut, but they obviously know nothing of the man."

      Incidentally, it's Rodney's son who opens the door in that scene. He is played in the movie by Keith Gordon [], who would later go on to direct the film adaptation [] of Vonnegut's "Mother Night."

  • Vonnegut's Asshole (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mondo1287 ( 622491 )
    Vonnegut's Asshole -> * One of my favorite authors. I own more of his books than anyone else's.
  • Tralfamadore (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:21AM (#18701933) Homepage
    Now two of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, are dead. They both managed to intertwine a strange philosophy in their novels. For Vonnegut, I've always enjoyed the glimpses into Tralfamadorean philosophy. "We are all bugs trapped in amber" they said. It was impossible to ascribe morality to any act. It just is. The easy reading of this idea may say that there's no evil, no good and by following that thread, no God or heaven. But what it really suggests is an idea from antiquity to Marlowe to Conrad to taoism. We are. We must do all that we can on this earth and not let some vague idea of good/bad determine our actions. We must live according to our own personal code.

    God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.
    • right and wrong exists, i know that and you know that. what you are really saying is that you want to determine what is right and wrong, not some questionably motivated external entity determining it for you

      but the problem is, in your words above, there seems to be a rationale for saying that there is no such thing as right and wrong at all. i know you don't mean that, but if you parse your words above, and look carefully at what you actually say, and what you neglect to say, then you can see how your words
      • That's funny, because from what the GP poster said I couldn't extrapolate all that information. From the few lines he wrote, all I see is a nihilist. I have no idea what his moral code is. It could be "do what you will, an it harm none", it could be Hammurabi's code, it could be Osama bin Laden's code. Humanists like to pretend that they are taking the simple, enlightened route, but it's not so simple as that.
      • "Right" and "wrong" have no existence outside our heads. I'm against certain kinds of behaviour, but that's not because they are wrong by some external moral standard, but because I find them to be wrong. This position is known as "moral non-cognitivism". []

        Note that it is *very* different from what some people call "moral relativism" - it is perfectly consistent for a moral non-congnitivist to eg have someone arrested for murder, even though they do not believe th
        • if someone murders, you would have them punished. that is all that matters to me. the rest of what you said, including your link, is pointless semantics. i don't care how you reason to come to think of murder as something punishable, as long as you think it is punishable

          you of course, say to me that that doesn't mean you think it is "wrong", according to the convoluted reasoning you have presented to me above. whatever. at this point we could have an infintely regressive argument about the definition of rig
      • right and wrong exists, i know that and you know that.

        I don't know that. Could you please provide a proof?

        • it's called self-fulfilling prophecy

          human beings and their reality are not dictated by math equations. the human animal is unique in that other animals adapt to their environment, buthumans adapt their environment to themselves. if we believe in something, we make it so. this explains everything from making a simple stone tool to going to the moon, to banging a drum, to creating a religion

          so how and why does right and wrong exist? because we make it so

          if you reject this simple assertion you suffer form stas
    • We must do all that we can on this earth and not let some vague idea of good/bad determine our actions.
      *Holds teapot of boiling water over your head*
      Good, or evil?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Harry Coin ( 691835 )

        "Pulls plug on cancer patient living in delirious agony."

        Good or evil?

        "Builds nuclear weapon to figh WWII."

        Good or evil?

        "Allows birthing mother to bleed to death to save baby."

        Good or evil?

        "Beheads monarchy to establish democracy in France."

        Good or evil?

        "Creates strawman to win argument on Slashdot."

        Good or evil?

        The rules are signposts, not walls, and all morality is relative. Deal with it.

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:24AM (#18701967) Homepage Journal
    Mitigating circumstance to mentioned on judgement day: he never asked to be born in the first place.

  • The days of no gravity were my favorites. The other days, when gravity nailed you to your bed, were the dark days.

    So many images, so many interesting newly invented words, imagery, and the skewering of organized religions and belief systems.

    Vonnegut was a Zen Master in a Hoosier Veteran's body, with a keen eye for the obscenity and violence that man foists upon man.

    There's a vacuum in humanity where he once stood, a lit Lucky Strike in his hand, smiling with rapt amusement at it all.

    The world was his ghetto
  • by tsmit ( 222375 ) <`tsmit50' `at' `'> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:48AM (#18702131) Homepage
    [after Diane gives Thornton an 'F' for his report, which was actually written by Kurt Vonnegut]
    Diane: Whoever *did* write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!
    [cut to Thornton's dorm suite]
    Thornton Melon: [on the phone] ... and *another* thing, Vonnegut! I'm gonna stop payment on the cheque!
    [Kurt tells him off]
    Thornton Melon: Fuck me? Hey, Kurt, can you read lips, *fuck you*! Next time I'll call Robert Ludlum!
    [hangs up]
  • RIP (Score:2, Funny)

    RIP Mr. Vonnegut Time will be stuck for a few of us today.
  • My handle here at Slashdot is a Vonnegut character that I mis-typed. It's always bugged me that it's wrong.
  • If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


    - Vonnegut's Blues For America 07 January, 2006 Sunday Herald

  • ... writing out code while crying. Most of the sods I had to talk to today, other departments and what not, tell me 'kurt vonnegut who?' The fist of death may make an unscheduled arrival today. Arg.
  • But his body of work will go on and on. The world is a better place for having had him in it for a while.

    As a side note, I saw this in the Firehose earlier, and felt really odd about clicking the "thumbs-up" icon next to it.
  • "But whoever did write it doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!"

    God I'm going to miss that bastard. He wrote so little and yet gave us so much.
  • "So it goes."
  • Including my two favorites: Bluebeard and Galapagos.

    RIP Kurt, your books sustained my love of literature in the desert of creativity that is a university's liberal arts department.
  • We will miss you, Kurt.
  • by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:22AM (#18702591)
    That was one hell of a graduation speech he gave a few years back.
  • by Mahtar ( 324436 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:27AM (#18702699)
    man that's too bad I really liked Nirvana
  • Oh man. I totally forgot about that saying after I got done with high school.

    S5 was a good interesting read. Highly recommended. Kinda saddening realizing that Vonnegut and Hunter S Thompson have both died in the past year. I'm just wondering who's the next author to die from my senior year of High School reading list?
  • by rworsnop ( 1012283 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:03PM (#18704367)
    From Slaughterhouse 5. Billy is having one of his "episodes" whilst watching television:

    "American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

    "The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes.

    "When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. ... The minerals were them shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

    "The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids."
  • by default luser ( 529332 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @03:37PM (#18707033) Journal
    "I have lived too long. Hi ho."

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.