The continuation of Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

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Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West,

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang . GIT'CHER ZUG SWAG HERE!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hi Ho

Every writer in the world will be writing about the passing of Kurt Vonnegut, and rightly so.

And, most of them will be more accomplished, better informed, and more interesting than I, so I can only tell the part of the Vonnegut story that no one else has. It isn't much, but when I assay the literary and critical firepower arrayed in its full majesty to praise AND bury the Renowned Hoosier, I had better just tuck tail and run. So here's my penny into the Wishing (him) Well.

Kilgore Trout, as some might remember, was Vonnegut's science fiction author character, whose work languished in the pages of "beaver magazines" because no one else would publish it—a literary fate I comprehend all too well.

But most people don't know that Trout (played by Albert Finney in the mediocre movie Breakfast of Champions) was actually based on a neighbor of Vonnegut's on Cape Cod, when he was supporting himself by selling Saabs and writing the stories he'd collect in Canary In A Cathouse. (My friend Mac has a very interesting story about that book.)

Anyway, Vonnegut's neighbor was a famous science fiction author whose writing, all agreed, was stellar (pun probably intended), but whose outlets were, by the nature of the genre, severly circumscribed. I'm euphemizing: he was in the "ghetto" -- as he wrote, privately.

Vonnegut was personally acutely aware of this syndrome. He wrote:

"I have been a sore-headed occupant of a file drawer labeled 'science fiction' … and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a tall white fixture in a comfort station," he wrote in an essay printed in the New York Times Book Review in 1965. (from the LA TIMES piece by Elaine Woo)

And so, he eventually admitted that he had based Kilgore Trout on Theodore Sturgeon, his Cape Cod neighbor. I was aware of this, via his widow, whom I know as a close personal friend. And, I realized a few years ago—as Paul Williams was putting together the Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon—that the connection had better be made soon, and officially, or would be forever lost.

I made sure that the word got back to Mr. Williams (through back channels) when Vonnegut announced that Timequake would be his last novel in 1997. Evidently the advice was heeded, or else Williams had the same thought: The introduction toThe Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume VII, A Saucer of Lonliness, in 2000, was by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. And it formalized the Sturgeon/Trout connection.

Maybe I had something to do with it. Maybe not. But it was there, and that was all that counted.

And that's really all I've got.

My main memories of Vonnegut are that he was one of the influential writers on me when I was deciding to "become a writer," circa 1975, and that I read Cats Cradle cover to cover in a motel one night in Gothenburg, Nebraska, while my first wife and I waited for the mechanic—that we'd managed to magically coast into off of I-80—to replace the clutch on our 1964 Ford Econoline Van with the persistent valve lifter clatter.

When I got back to college the following week, I put "Bokononist" in the blank for "religion" at TCU, but it was officially listed as "Unknown."

And that's all I've really got. Except ...

There are a few, of whom, when they pass, it might be said that the world is perceptably dimmer. A light has left it. It was like that when Sturgeon died. It is like that now that Vonnegut has died.

And, in what is sure to be the most used, most mangled cliché, I will dutifully repeat that phrase that Vonnegut claims is the traditional statement of Tralfamadorans when someone dies.

And so it goes.



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