In Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut used the phase "So it goes…" to casually talk about death. While
every obituary writer in the world is now penning this as the title of Vonnegut’s obituary, I think his death is anything but a casual event for me.
Vonnegut’s writing was first introduced to me in junior high school by a fellow classmate Bruce, who was a perpetual troublemaker. Assigned to read and then verbally talk about a new book every few weeks, Bruce impressed the class with his ability to aggravate our English teacher with his oral book report on "Cat’s Cradle" that focused on the plot. If you’ve read the plot, you know that a detailed plot summary could go on for an hour.
And that’s exactly what Bruce did. Without breaking character once, he carefully told the entire plot of Cat’s Cradle to the class. Our teacher repeatedly interrupted him, saying "That’s enough", and Bruce asserted his love for literature (not a believable point) and asked to continue. I think our teacher was so shocked that the class clown should express an interest in anything literary that he felt hypocritical cutting him off, but about every five minutes he realized he had lost control of the class and attempted to end the book report.
From that moment, I was hooked on Vonnegut.
Even before I came to love Abbie Hoffman, Vonnegut was my first anti-war role model. He spoke to entire generations of young people, showing how you could be provocative while still smiling and make people laugh. His brilliant ability to meld light science fiction with serious characters living in absurd circumstances was my literary love for years, and allowed him entree with audiences that wouldn’t have ever read an anti-war screed.
Millions will miss him, and it will not be with the casual line "So it goes…"
We have lost something far more dear.