From the Archives: Captain Kurt Spaces Out (1985)

in Culture

By Craig Silver

Richard Brautigan committed suicide. Joseph Heller has become trite. Thomas Pynchon no longer writes. But Vonnegut goes on. Hi ho.

More accurately: Hi Ho!, because Vonnegut remains a major standard-bearer of the crazed-lunatic, surrealist-absurdist, ultimately ultra-sane literary style that blazed across the ’60s. Remember the ’60s? The ’60s—a metaphor for a sensibility that has now be come unstuck in time. Unstuck in time—a phrase coined by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five, a big ’60s novel that was partly an allegory about Vietnam. Vietnam—a deadening of the spirit caused by American corporate greed disguised as misguided American philanthropy. Kurt Vonnegut: an expert on the deadening of the spirit.

“This country is making me crazy,” Vonnegut recently told a slightly shocked but spellbound audience, much of which thought he was drunk, at the New York University Writers’ Conference. “New York is making me sick… my wife is making me sick… you can become sick by the culture outside yourself.”

Vonnegut is basically so pissed at humanity that he kills off all of it but a handful in his new novel, Galápagos, and those he saves he turns into harmless, armless creatures resembling porpoises who only like to fart, fuck and go fishing—scratch that, all they can do is fart, fuck and go fishing, because that’s where evolution has left them. He’s also stripped them of their so-called “big brains” and covered them with fur. It’s the big brains that have made people miserable, Vonnegut has concluded, and in Galápagos, humans’ large brain size will prove to be an evolutionary dead end, like the flightless wings on a dodo bird.

“It’s hard to believe nowadays that people could ever [be] brilliantly duplicitous…” says the narrator in the book, a million-year-old ghost named Leon …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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