Happy birthday, Kurt Vonnegut! Here are some quotes from the author.
“So it goes.”
“There is no order in the world around us, we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.”
“Laughs are exactly as honorable as tears. Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
“In nonsense is strength.”
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'”
“I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool.”
“It goes against the American storytelling grain to have someone in a situation he can’t get out of, but I think this is very usual in life. There are people, particularly dumb people, who are in terrible trouble and never get out of it, because they’re not intelligent enough. It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that man can always solve his problems. This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry—or laugh.”
“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don’t acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.”
“We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.”
“Yesterday’s snow job becomes today’s sermon.”
“We’re terrible animals. I think that the Earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.”
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
“1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.”
“I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.”
“Science is magic that works.”
“I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”
“That is my principal objection to life, I think: It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.”
“‘Each person does a little something,’ I said, ‘and there you are.’”
“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
“The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”
“Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.”
“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
“Anyway—because we are readers, we don’t have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next—and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis—at any time of night or day.”
“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit.”
“Wake up, you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?”
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.