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Vonnegut RIP
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Kurt Vonnegut died last week.

He was one of my favorite authors. He wrote in a short, punchy, jokey style, but his themes were cruelty, war, and death.

When I was a teenager and through college I loved his stuff. One of his most famous books is Slaughterhouse Five, but even though I liked the concept of aliens who basically experience time all at once, it wasn't nearly my favorite book of his.

Welcome to the Monkey House was a collection of short stories, the best probably Harrison Bergeron, about a society in which everyone is made "equal" by handicapping those who are exceptionally smart or strong, so that everyone is on the same level by basically being on the lowest common denominator. It's a great story.

My other favorite are Cat's Cradle, in which the world is threatened by a superweapon called "Ice-9", which is water that freezes at room temperature. Vonnegut also crafted an entire fictional religion which is really the centerpiece of the book.

But Galapagos was really my favorite book of his. The rest of humanity is destroyed by war and chaos, but a small group of survivors make it to the Galapagos Islands, the birthplace of evolutionary theory, and there they become an object lesson in the founder effect, which is that a new remote population will be skewed from its original source population by its idiosyncracies (e.g., if a basketball team crash landed on an island, if you visited them in 500 years their descendants would probably be taller than the mainland).

Anyway, like most of Vonnegut it was funny, intelligent, and sad all at the same time.

From what I know of his political views, I disagree with nearly all of them. Vonnegut seemed to essentially be a pacifist and a socialist. His last book was a collection of essays called A Man Without a Country, in which he mockingly deplored America under Bush.

Ah well...I still loved his writing and will visit it from time to time.

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