It’s 7:03 AM. And on this mid-November Sunday, I’m sitting on my couch, thinking about Kurt Vonnegut. I’m reading his funny little book, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (Seven Stories Press), a collection of fictionalized interviews Vonnegut had with dead people. What began as 90-second interludes for New York City’s public radio station, ultimately, resulted in a book.
Most of the interviews begin with “today’s controlled near-death experience,” and end with “This is Kurt Vonnegut, signing off in the lethal injection facility at Huntsville, Texas.”
(Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. died, realistically, on April 11, 2007, as a result of brain injuries incurred several weeks prior, from a fall at his home in New York City. He was 84 years old.)
What I like about this slim volume of a masterpiece is the little tidbits of information a reader consumes about the past-on interview subjects. For example: I did not know the famous American defense attorney, Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), came from a small farming town in Ohio called Farmdale. I am from a little Ohio farm township, as well. Deerfield, OH, to be exact. Though I am far from being an attorney – a famous one, at that – I still feel a little connection and pride that I came from the same kind of grounds as Darrow, Ambrose Bierce (1842 – disappeared 1914), and Hart Crane (1899-1932). Crane was actually from Garrettsville, OH, in Portage County. Deerfield is a part of Portage County, as well.
Back to Vonnegut:
I started reading K. Vonnegut, Jr. in college. No. None of his books were assigned to me to read for a class. In a bookstore one fall afternoon, on a display table of American classics, was Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s 1969, science fiction-laced novel about the bombing of Dresden during World War 2. By my fourth year of college, at the University of Akron, I had read most of his novels, and some short fiction collections. His style of writing both intrigued and inspired me. It still does. And I am not finished with devouring his work.
One of the great things about Great Writers is their capability to continue the element of surprise for the reader. God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian was published in 1999, and this was the first time I read it. More of Vonnegut’s books will be included in my library. I’m sure the good author will bless me with more surprises.