I knew I wanted to say something about the passing of Kurt Vonnegut this week. Like a lot of writers on the Internet, I try to say something amusing, hoping to be funny with most of my posts. Writing something funny about somebody who was a truly funny writer is intimidating. I can't put him all the way up in the pantheon of funny with Mark Twain, but with the Americans who came after Twain, he's right up there with Dorothy Parker and James Thurber and his friend Joseph Heller.
Heller and Vonnegut were big influences when I grew up, and all this greatest generation romanticization of war that's so popular gives me a serious pain. The men and women who fought in WW II did our country and world a great service, but even a good war is a crap endevour. My dad fought in Korea, and he hated it. Every story he told was either about the regret of taking lives or the absolute idiocy of Army bureaucracy. As a kid, I read Slaughterhouse 5 and Catch-22 and The Good Soldier Schweik, a very funny anti-war novel from WW I. I grew up with one idea from literature that was backed up by the first hand experience of my father. War is the worst fucking idea human beings have ever invented, and human beings have come up with some pretty bad fucking ideas. I'd love to hear Tom Brokaw read that last sentence, with or without the obscenity.
I can't make a promise to write as funny as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. for the rest of the month, but I can do one thing. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. hated semicolons. I personally use them all the time. For the rest of the month, I'm going to swear off them. It's the least I can do.
p.s. Happy 300th birthday to My Favorite Lenny.