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God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

In honor Kurt Vonnegut's memory on this, the second anniversary of his untimely death, I wanted to share with you guys a letter I wrote to Vonnegut but regret never sending.

Dated February 18, 2006, it was written just over a year prior to his death. I typed it up on an old Corona typewriter.

I've also submitted this and accompanying column to the Huffington Post. Here's the link to that article. (For other Huffington Post columns of mine, click here.)

Also, It'll only be another day or two for me to be posting a new short story. It's being a little bit more troublesome than I'd like.

Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.,

My name is Bryan Young and this is the second letter I've written you, but only the first I've sent. I read the first letter I wrote to you and crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. What it had to say was this: I'm 25, I've read almost your complete library every year since I was 15 and respect, admire, and cherish you and what you have said in the last 60-plus years, using only idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines, with ink on bleached and flattened wood pulp, of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and about eight punctuation marks. In it, I also mentioned that you, your books, and your overly infectious ideas are what gave me the courage to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking and writing screenplays.

I didn't quit my day job.

The overall point of my first, unsent, letter was to give you some solace in the fact that youth isn't entirely useless. (Not the state of being youthful, merely those of us with less experience and wisdom as you.) There are still those of us who care about history and Abraham Lincoln and reading newspapers and Mark Twain and Sacco and Vanzetti. There are some of us who still type with typewriters and send letters (see, you're holding the proof in your hands!) and care about those around us.

Sadly, my last letter lacked eloquence. So far, I don't feel this one does either, but it's much closer.

The point that I wanted to make with my first letter, but failed to do so, was this: Your work has made a difference. Maybe it didn't change the world, but it certainly changed me (and those whom I force your books upon). Your message will be carried on by those of us courageous (or foolish) enough to carry it.

Before I go, I want to apologize for the familiarity with which I write this letter to you. I've read your novels (and short stories, anthologies, and plays) so often and have for so long, that they're like visits to an old friend (or a late night drunken phone call to old buddies from school.) Although we've never met and never communicated, I feel as though you're sort of a father figure, or a very old friend.

I hope you are well. Perhaps you'll publish another anthology of essays and I'll be able to visit my old writing buddy one more time.

Sincerely and with all the respect in the world,

Bryan Young

Comments

Anna Russell said…
I still can't believe there will be no more stories from him.
A lovely tribute to an amazing man.
Crash said…
Bryan,

One of the hardest things for any adult to cope with is the death of the older adults that one grows up with, especially if they are our heroes.

Sadly, as you enter your 30's and 40's, this will seem to occur with alarming frequency. I recently spoke with author Christopher Buckley about this very phenomenon, which he had just written about in his column on The Daily Beast: "The last two years have seen so many departures of people who for most of my life seemed imperishable. All the grown-ups are leaving."

That sentence haunts me: "All the grown-ups are leaving." You find yourself thinking, "That's impossible. They CAN'T be gone."

At least we had Kurt Vonnegut as long as we did. I'm grateful for that.

Off the subject, I just discovered this blog and you thanks to Huffington Post (the full feed is in my Google Reader). I'm now adding you to my reader.

All the best,

Crash

P.S. From now on, mail the letters. You'll be glad that you did.

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