So It Goes
April 12, 2007
Rest in peace, Mr. Vonnegut.
Some favorite quotes:
“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.”
“Son – they say there isn’t any royalty in this country, but do you want me to tell you how to be King of the United States of America? Just fall through a hole in the privy and come out smelling like a rose.”
“The big problem with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.”
“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting,” I said, ‘but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side.'”
“You hate America, don’t you?” she said.
“That would be as silly as loving it,” I said. “It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.”
“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘it might have been.'”
“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”
“I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.”
“The arts put man at the center of the universe, whether he belongs there or not. Military science, on the other hand, treats man as garbage— and his children, and his cities, too. Military science is probably right about the contemptibility of man in the vastness of the universe. Still— I deny that contemptibility, and I beg you to deny it, through the creation of appreciation of art. ”
“If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be a homosexual, the least you can is go into the arts.”
“Slaughterhouse Five has been turned into an opera by a young German, and will have its premiere in Munich this June.I’m not going there either. Not interested. I am fond of Occam’s razor, or the law of parsimony, which suggests that the simplest explanation of a phenomenon is usually the most trustworthy.”
“What does “A.D.” signify? That commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we call Earth who was nailed to a wooden cross by a bunch of other inmates. With him still conscious, they hammered spikes through his wrists and insteps, and into the wood. Then they set the cross upright, so he dangled up there where even the shortest person in the crowd could see him writhing this way and that. Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person?”
“Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”
“One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”
Vonnegut on writing:
“1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.”
“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”
“Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”
“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”
“Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.”
“Start as close to the end as possible.”
“Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”
“Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”
“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”