Over the past few years, I’ve lost quite a bit of heroes. Johnny Cash, Steve Irwin, Bob Clark, Robert Altman, Hubert Selby… I could go on and on. Today’s news however, was quite a blow. Kurt Vonnegut was finally dead.
And I don’t mean “finally” like “about damn time!” No, I mean it like, “He’s had a good run.” This guy smoked cigarettes like the best of them and used to joke about they haven’t killed him yet. I was glad Vonnegut was still alive and part of me even thought that he would be one of those guys who would live forever. This morning I was reminded that living forever just doesn’t happen to good people. I bet Britney Spears or the inventors of American Idol will live long enough to travel to Mars.
But good people like Vonnegut aren’t that lucky and we aren’t lucky enough to have them for so long. That isn’t to say Vonnegut didn’t have a good run – can you imagine what life would be like at 84? I can’t.
The first Kurt Vonnegut novel I ever read was Breakfast of Champions. The book took me by complete surprise. Dwayne Hoover was a man in the midst of mid-life crises and Vonnegut threw everything he could at him. It’s one of the most hilarious (and downright sad) books I’ve ever read and to this day, remains one of my favorites. Someone felt the need to make a really awful film adaptation in 1999, and it starred Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte. While some parts were certainly interesting, it’s hard to translate Vonnegut’s wit into the film world. It just doesn’t work.
Another favorite of mine also got the film treatment – Slaughterhouse-Five. The film, directed by George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The World According to Garp), also failed to catch and understand the written Vonnegut word. The only film adaptation of one of his works even worth discussing would be 1996’s Mother Night, also starring Nick Nolte. Nolte must be a Vonnegut fan. Director Keith Gordon (A Midnight Clear) actually understood the novel well enough to make a worthy adaptation of a great novel.
But enough boring chat about adaptations and Nick Nolte. The news of his death has quite troubled me. Even though he had an 84 year run on this planet, it wasn’t long enough. In fact, I’d be willing to give him my 26 years. That way he would have lived to be over 100. That’s what this world needs, but sadly, this world never gets what it needs.