I'm very sad to see the passing of one of America's greatest literary geniuses. Kurt Vonnegut.
He served as a military scout in World War II, and was imprisoned in Dresden. He was one of only seven American prisoners of war to survive the three day bombing raid that flattened much of the city. His experiences from seeing that firsthand served as the basis for his masterpiece, Slaughterhouse Five.
Almost four decades after its release, Slaughterhouse Five is still one of the most frequently banned books in America. Some may think it's because his portrayal of soldiers in a war zone using profanity. Some may think it's because of the sexual content.
But personally, I have a different theory. The reason it raised hackles at the time was that we were involved in a war only slightly less popular than syphillis, and he showed us, for the first time in American pop culture, how horrifying our own means of waging war can be.
The Bombing of Dresden was not particularly well known in America before Vonnegut wrote his masterpiece. But once he did, he etched it into the collective consciousness of the American people.
His Nazi captors had him trying to herd the bodies into mass graves. But there were too many, so they instead handed him a blowtorch to cremate them on the spot.
America was just not prepared to hear that at the time. They're not really any better at hearing it now, as those who support the invasion of Iraq cling to a sanitized vision of war in which bombs only hit military targets and bullets fall harmlessly to the ground if they miss their intended victim.
One of his recurring characters, Kilgore Trout, was based on himself. He wrote in Timequake that Trout dies at the age of 84.
Kurt Vonnegut... Dead at 84.
So it goes.