some tribe


One of the first adult writers who hooked me, as a teen, was Kurt Vonnegut. My dad was a big fan of black humor, and we had all of his books when I was growing up. Vonnegut was the guy who convinced me that you could be both cynical and hopeful. More than any other writer, he gave me the sense that it was possible to both expect the worst and hope for the best from humankind.

In the winter, I refer to his work Cat’s Cradle nearly every day (because my husband often has ice-nine feet when he comes to bed).

His fiction writing was inspired and playful, but it is the article “Biafra: A People Betrayed,” published in Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons that is one of the most moving things I’ve ever read. I first read it when I was 15 or 16, and had never heard of Biafra–I probably couldn’t even have found Nigeria on a map at the time–but it went through me like a shot, and I’ve never forgotten the Biafran’s struggle for self-determination, nor how much dignity Vonnegut gave them in his portrayal. I’ve read that book so many times that I’ve lost the entire front section–my original copy now starts on page 45.

I’ll miss you, Kurt. Say nothing but good of the dead.


April 12, 2007. books for grown-ups. 5 comments.