Halloween and Hardware

With this week’s post, I won’t be writing about a single book in particular, but rather about an author.  And that author is none other than the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut, who died (to my, and likely his, chagrin) over two years ago.  Vonnegut has been on my mind for about a week or so, ever since I saw that a new collection of his stories, entitled Look at the Birdie, had been released.  The collection (which I should probably buy) reminded me of my first experience with Vonnegut, way back in junior high, when prodigious awkwardness and pubescent wrath flourished like the acne that found a home on my pale and newly teenage face.

On one unseasonably cold October day (although, due to the unreliability of memory, the frigid air I recall could be a complete falsehood, as could be the month), I remember being assigned to read a story entitled “Harrison Bergeron” by my eighth grade English teacher.  At this time, I had never read nor heard of Kurt Vonnegut, as I spent most of my free time attempting to unravel the complexities of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos (as does every normal boy of thirteen).  I took the story home and, upon reading the opening paragraph, found myself completely taken with it immediately:

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Vonnegut’s descriptions of this dystopian future America influenced me in more ways than he could imagine.  And the rebellion of the teenage Harrison Bergeron seemed like some sort of indication to me at the time that I, or anyone else caught in the cruel grasp of adolescence, still retained a modicum of importance and ability to be an individual despite my surroundings (and on continued the tirade of thoughts that peppered my teenage mind).

At any rate, after this experience, I went out and devoured Slaughterhouse-Five immediately, beginning a torrid affair with Vonnegut’s work.  I’m almost twenty-two as I write this, and the affair continues, albeit less frequently than I’d like.  Regardless, something about Vonnegut always sticks with me, reminding me that life is never as serious as I make it out to be.

(Also, for those of you who never read “Harrison Bergeron” growing up, shame on you.  Here’s a link.  You’re welcome).

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