Kurt Vonnegut saved my sanity in high school. Public secondary school and I were not the best of friends, the most compatible of mates. I just flat out hated it. I survived by playing guitar between classes and reading Vonnegut novels during. The Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, Player Piano and, of course, Slaughterhouse Five, to name a few of his masterpieces, entertained me through the most boring of “teachers” and influenced the tone in every English essay I ever wrote.
Fortunately, I had a few teachers who appreciated having a student with just enough intelligence to take a smarmy, smart ass approach to a three page composition on The Use of Symbolism in The Great Gatsby. The Vonnegut Effect. My adolescent-era muse.
So it blew my mind the other day when I was reading his last book–a fabulous collection of essays called A Man Without a Country–and realized that it’s published by Random House, which owns the imprint called Currency Doubleday.
Readers of this site will know that they’re the ones publishing my next book.
Never in a gazillion years, back in, say, psychology class at Maine Township High School East, could I have imagined that Vonnegut and I would one day be–what?–label mates?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not making comparisons of any sort here (for one thing, Vonnegut hated semi-colons), I’m just saying it rattled my synapses, that’s all.
I’ll admit, though, that I like to imagine that before he died, he had the chance to read my next book. Which of course, he did not. And I like to fantasize that maybe even now, he would endorse it from beyond the grave with the following words from his last book, from an essay called, A sappy woman from Ypsilanti:
“What made being alive almost worthwhile for me, besides music, was all the saints I met, who could be anywhere. By saints I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.”
People, I would say, who strove to make others greater than themselves.