So, farewell then, Kurt. You didn't kill yourself in 1985, though you tried. Instead, you died at 84 after a fall which left you with brain injuries but not before writing your last book in disgust at George W. Bush, A Man Without A Country.
|Kurt was a major anti-authoritarian hero, whose work was "characterized by wild leaps of imagination and a deep cynicism, tempered by humanism" (Wiki). "If you really want to disappoint your parents, and don't have the nerve to be gay, go into the arts." he said. I took his advice, and it changed my life.|
I read Kurt's book Slaughterhouse Five many, many times as a boy, and I read it aloud several times as a man; it was my second-favourite anti-war novel, the first being either Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, Kurt's close friend, or "Rommell?" "Gunner Who?" by Spike Milligan. All of these marvellous minds saw the surreal and bizarre in the actual, and the ludicrous and often callous posturing of moralizers as a real stain upon humanity.
I read everything I could by Kurt, who was one of my precious pantheon of science-fiction writers, up there with Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Harry Harrison, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Brian Aldiss, and I scanned the shelves of the second hand bookshops in Crystal Palace in search of these sacred authors who would invariably take me somewhere out of the London Borough of Croydon, often half-way across an unknown universe, where I would remain happily involved in future adult worlds my parents knew not of. Once I spent several days introducing myself to strangers as Kilgore Trout. I loved Kilgore, he was Kurt in another guise, appearing to himself in his own work and discussing the very pages I was reading. It was an odd thing, a twelve year old, smooth face unmarked by any beard, voice piping and unbroken, claiming a glorious name from American literature.
"This is a very bad book you're writing," I said to myself.
"I know," I said.
"You're afraid you'll kill yourself the way your mother did," I said.
"I know," I said.
Kurt claimed he never won the Nobel prize because his Saab dealership went bankrupt. They should have invented a new Scandinavian nation with it's own prize just for him.