Remembering Kurt Vonnegut

image man without a countryIt’s been almost a year since Kurt Vonnegut died, but I’ve been thinking about him a lot. I recently read the final book he published during his lifetime, A Man Without a Country. It’s a concise collection of biographical essays that feel like they were written by your cantankerous, but highly intelligent and funny, old uncle.

I felt such deep affection for the man while reading these essays. Then, when I got to page 102 and read his eloquent thoughts about librarians and libraries, I fell for him hook, line and sinker. Here’s what he wrote:

I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, their powerful political connections or great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”

4 thoughts on “Remembering Kurt Vonnegut”

  1. Here’s a little more from Vonnegut on libraries, from an address he gave at the opening of the Wheaton College library back in 1973:

    “I congratulate this beloved college for having a library. If a teacher forgets something, he or she doesn’t have to pretend he or she still knows it. He or she can come to the library and look it up, or he or she can force a student to look it up. Nobody has to fake facts at Wheaton, unless he or she is too lazy to live.
    The burning of the library of Wheaton would not be the intellectual catastrophe that the burning of the library of Alexandria, Egypt, was. There were no duplicates of many of the books at Alexandria. Our civilization has since developed a mania for duplication. Because there are so many duplicates of everything, our culture can be said to be fireproof.
    I think we can say without fear of contradiction, too, that our books are not as full of baloney as many of the lost books of Alexandria were. People in those days believed all sorts of things which simply were not true. Those were pitiful days.
    The Alexandrians believed that the World was the center of the Universe. They didn’t know that teeny-weeny little animals and unhappy childhoods caused a lot of disease. They fought with knives. That’s all in your library here – what those people were like. We’re in there too. New books about us arrive every day. What are we like? We are a mixture of good and evil.
    I am fascinated by the good and evil in myself and in everyone, and I can’t get anybody to talk about either one anymore. People are embarrassed for me.
    I am fascinated by the good and evil in your library.”

    I, too, am fascinated by the good and evil in the library! Oh yes I am!

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