It’s a major passing. 84 for a habitual smoker isn’t bad in any way, but still a loss. I remember talking to Jim about Vonnegut and how I felt I should write to him, for no other reason than to tell him how much he got to me and how worthwhile it was. Not just because he did – there’s figures that have got to me as much as Vonnegut I didn’t feel the need to hammer out a letter to – but because I was aware he wouldn’t be here for long and if I didn’t say it soon, I’d never say it. I’d never say it.

So it goes.

And I hate writing that, in some ways. It’s too easy. It’s his fault. Vonnegut wrote so precisely, humanly and openly (and quotably) about the Big Issues we can fall back to one of his practiced world-weary shrugs. He was very good at epitaphs for the human race. People have been quoting that line in “God Bless You, Mr Rosewater”, because while it keeps to his humanistic core, it’s relatively positive. I find myself trying to remember the line in Cats Cradle where the midget decries the cruelty of the eponymous game. No wonder humans end up fucked up. No cat. No cradle.

As a measure of the man, I can’t remember any time when a larger percentage of my friendslists and regular rssfeeds have all written something sizeable about the passing of a major figure (Even Thompson got less, at a glance, at least in length, seriousness and warmth – though, admittedly the means of Thompson’s passing coloured that). As another – and this is petty and personal – he’s been my answer to the “If you could be another writer, who would you be?”since I first read him. Delicate, precise, dangerously funny, literally-speaking disreputable, writing with absolute conviction and passion about the most key human interactions – the sort which many writers avoid for fearing of appearing trite, when – in fact – they’re about the only ones which matter…

I actually came to Vonnegut late, which makes me feel a little bad about him influencing me so much. Ste Curran of the Triforce was the one who finally forced me into a room with Cats Cradle, and I’m embarrassed by it – both that it was so late and that I’ve done the wordsmith equivalent of falling for a band a mate plays to you who they love. He’s an obvious influence on Ste. You could easily read Redeye or his other pseudonym as his Kilgore Trout, and those intense pieces certainly mirrored Vonneguts chapter-as-joke structures. He’s writing plays now, you know, and I really should get up to the fringe at some point to see one of them.

Where was I?

I get scared of libraries. Shops too, but libraries more so as they’re a little purer. Enter one and there’s immediate physical evidence of how little you know, how wide your ignorance stretches. You’ll never read all these books, even if you started now and never stopped. You are small, and it is infinite.

To deal with the expanse – I’ve always felt like I started too late in everything I’ve done – I follow trails. Things which are referenced in things you love is something akin to curatorship. A nod and a wink saying “Hey – we dug this stuff. You dig us? You’ll like it too….”. The best bands have always done this – which is, of course, a different thing than record collector rock. The realization that I followed leads from things which were cited in reviews is one reason I pepper my own stuff with references – you write assuming that people are like you, and it’s an act of faith to act likewise.

So, I came to Vonnegut through Ste, backed up by a mass of other things which have referenced him (MSCL, anyone?). Vonnegut immediately took me – finally – to the Doz and Russian literature generally, in a line where Billy Pilgrim’s mate in a hospital ward, defending Kilgore Trout’s terrible novels, says something which I use to explain (to others, but mainly to myself) pretty much every single creative endeavor I start. Excuse the paraphrase.

“Everything there is to know about Human Nature is in The Brothers Karamazov by Feodor Dostoevsky. But it’s not enough anymore.”

And I look for something pithy and accurate to end on, but all that comes to mind is a simple “Thankyou”.