If I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, “Kurt is up in heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.
Not only is Kurt up in heaven, but now @VonnegutTweets has gone up to join him.
I hereby announce that I’ll publish here all of the tombstone line drawings submitted for this project. Before I’m inundated with these drawings, here are some final words.
I’ve been so heartened by the community that has sprung up around these tweets. Although Vonnegut was, as @Tewattsucsb remarked, “Luddite to the last,” he was big into the sprouting of such like-minded societies. The best I can hope for is that this feed has been a sort of wampeter for the great Vonnegut karass.
You guys were with him throughout it all. When Kurt approached the Siegfried Line with his brothers in arms back in 1944, @IsraelBeauchamp noted that his outlook was “pretty gung-ho, Hemingwayesque.” This would come to change. With Dresden looming ahead of him, @IsraelBeauchamp said “… and so it begins.”
Back on American soil, when Kurt was struggling awfully through his 20s and 30s with his writing, @MatthewCallaway was there to tell him: “I know the feeling. Don’t give up, I’m sure you’ve got a lot left to say!” As Kurt’s books failed to get major recognition, @SaintLonesome pointed out it was “Strange to see a writer of his calibre struggling with validation.” When Kurt was 42 and “dead broke with a lot of kids, and completely out of print and scared to death,” @MyfineassBerg said “I kinda get the sense he was never happy with life until the end.” In fact, even near the end – age 83 – Vonnegut was still asking, “Why is Kerouac in the dictionary of writers and I’m not?”
I’m sorry that for Kurt this has been an elaborate electronic timequake: he has been forced to relieve the past, powerless to change it. But I’ve loved the moments where tweets have reminded people not only of books they have read, but personal letters he wrote to them, or occasions when he met them in the flesh. A highlight was when Robert B. Weide was “floored to discover myself entering the picture today, in 1982, when Kurt was 59.” Weide was entering the picture in order to create a documentary about Kurt’s life – a documentary that hopefully will be with us very soon.
For at least the last decade of his life, Kurt had had enough. At age 73 he said “I bore the shit out of myself. I’m like Melville’s whalers, who didn’t talk anymore because they’d said all they’d had to say. I sleep a lot.” @RedReddest spoke for a lot of people when he said, “A lot of these tweets make me wish I could give Kurt a hug.”
And as the years rolled by, Kurt grew ever more disillusioned with the state of US politics. Many speculated about what he’d say if he were alive to watch the news today. @MatthewCallaway said, “Sometimes I’m glad you didn’t live to see what a shit show things have become, but I always regret that we don’t have your insight and perspective to get us through these crazy times.” This has been a key message, which people have expressed through declaring that they’ll reread Slaughterhouse-Five, or by sharing his Kilgore Trout postcards, or by urging the next generation to read his books. The key message is this: Kurt Vonnegut is missed.
I have a huge number of people to thank for helping with this project. Thanks to Charles Shields for his biography and his words of encouragement. Thanks to Robert B. Weide for many a discussion and the donation of an original letter from Vonnegut (fun fact: this was the first use of something outside of the public domain in one of these twitter feeds). Thanks to the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis for their support (and congratulations on securing a wonderful permanent home!). Thanks to Lauren Farnsworth for the amazing portrait (check out the detail in those luscious locks). Thanks to all early promoters, commenters and retweeters who have given the feed life, including, but certainly not limited to: @mleeds88, @INHumanities, @Donaldrighthere, @IndyJazzBelle, @MyfineassBerg, @Ellerhoff, @Catsorange1, @GROIDS2235, @RedReddest, @DGthisisnothere, @Nixy42, @chainbear, and everyone else quoted here. I thank my wife, Emily, for the ridiculous amount she supports me and spurs me on. She even tried to read Mother Night, although it wasn’t her cup of tea.
And finally I thank the man himself, Kurt Vonnegut. Over the last two years of doing this project, I’ve had bits and bobs rattling around in my head when I’ve been taking a shower or walking down the street or unloading the dishwasher – bits and bobs that have inspired me, reassured me, or just plain tickled me. These bits and bobs have been Vonnegut’s words: dark jokes, loving advice, snugly phrased truths. They will outlive him; they are unstuck in time. I will leave you with one such bit:
Look, I’m old. Joe Namath isn’t passing footballs into the crowds anymore. You ought to see what Mozart looks like by now. – Kurt Vonnegut (2006, age 83)