Novelist dies at 84, leaving legacy behind

By Liz Kerstetter
April 26, 2007

Creative Commons

Kurt Vonnegut, acclaimed novelist, passed away at age 84 on April 11 due to irreversible brain injuries cause by a fall at his Manhattan home several weeks prior.

Vonnegut’s style of satire combined with black comedy and science fiction earned him a prominent place in many high schools throughout America.

Vonnegut’s writing career began in 1950 when his first short story, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” was published in Collier’s. The books “Breakfast of Champions,” “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Cat’s Cradle” earned Vonnegut critical acclaim and are his top two novels used in high schools today.

A representative at Random House for high school teachers sent out a web announcement stating, “Critically-acclaimed yet also controversial, many of his novels have become modern-day classics as well as course adoption staples”.

Many students enjoy Vonnegut for his cynicism and humor all throughout his writings. Professor of English, Dr. Seth Frechie said, “Cat’s Cradle and “Slaughterhouse-Five” are two of the most innovative and funny books I’ve ever read.”

Vonnegut said of his own writing in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, “Humor is a way of holding off how awful life can be, to protect yourself. Finally, you get just too tired, and the news is too awful, and humor doesn’t work anymore . . . . All I really wanted to do was give people the relief of laughing. Humor can be a relief, like an aspirin tablet. If a hundred years from now people are still laughing, I’d certainly be pleased.”

Late in his career Vonnegut made many television appearances on shows such as PBS’s “Now” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” He may have passed, but his writing will certainly live on throughout hundreds of American high schools.

Liz Kerstetter

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