From The Desk Of The Sharp Things’ Perry Serpa: Kurt Vonnegut

Having actually included MAGNET as one of my favorite things (and I promise that’s not sucking up, I really love the publication), you can imagine how chuffed I was at the prospect of a guest editorship. Over the past, well, several years of the Sharp Things‘ existence, Eric Miller has been a friend and an advocate, even when no one else was, so I’m honored to be able to ramble on a bit about a bunch of shit that I dig, because I want everyone to know about it and, more significantly, because it makes me feel important. 😉 Over to you, me …


It is befitting, I think, to follow my blather about Nick Hornby with some more blather about Kurt Vonnegut. For me at least, there is a direct line between the two who have written about idiosyncratic personalities who get in their own way. Often with a darker take in Vonnegut’s case, this remind us that there’s a surreal aspect to the human experience, that either comes from forces within or without, and that affects the course of lives all around us. The courage of change, especially with Vonnegut’s narratives, is a running theme. Breakfast Of Champions’ Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout are perfect examples—but while telling important stories, with Vonnegut, there is always the appreciated reticence to pull back on the propensity to make their characters larger than life. Which creates the humor in his prose (and Hornby’s): irregular folks dealing with irregular circumstances. Vonnegut, who’s done this with more poise than any other author I can think of, aside from maybe Salinger, uses everyday colloquialisms to get incredibly insightful points across. As an active member of the ACLU, I also have a deep appreciation of his politics, an aspect of his writing that seemed to become more overt in his latter works, but certainly a centerpiece of novels like Slaughterhouse-Five and Welcome To The Monkey House, etc.

Video after the jump.