April 1, 2008 Timequake
“A quake in time/Makes you go back past nine/one becomes unstuck/Free to repeat each fuck-up!” A limerick of sorts dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut. I picked up Slaughter-House 5 due to the reference on Lost. While I was at it, I picked up Breakfast of Champions and Timequake. It was very entertaining read, cocked full of intertexuality.
Slaughter House 5 mentions Heaven and Hell by William Blake, Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky—just to name a few! Breakfast of Champions didn’t really name too many. Timequake was the richest source of references. Our Town by Thornton Wilder, A Street Car Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Old Man and The Sea by Hemingway, Walden by Thoreau, Candide by Voltaire, Moby Dick by Melville, Frankenstein by Shelly and Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. He also mentioned the authors HC Mencken, AE Housman, William Styron, TS Elliot, Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Dick Francis and others! Perhaps most interesting was that Vonnegut list Socialist George Bernard Shaw as his hero. He mentions Nietzsche in passing. Then he mentions Samuel Taylor Coleridge by way of Kubla Khan. Coleridge mentions Xanadu or Shangdu. Vonnegut mentions Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Very interesting indeed!
Although Slaughter-House 5 was mentioned in the enhanced version of Lost, Timequake seems more relevant, especially considering its themes of free will versus determinism. Not to mention all the literary crossovers. Vonnegut, then, connects to Ethan Macmillan and me because of George Bernard Shaw. It made me curious as to if Ethan Macmillan had read Vonnegut or not. It seems likely he has. This coincidence made me think of him even more. I’ve been missing him lately and I don’t know why exactly.
Breakfast of Champions connected to Ben and my story “Death and Masturbation.” Ben once told Shani that he tried to kill himself by drinking Drano. I’ve been told that if one even sipped Drano that he’d be dead. So why did Ben say that? Where did he get the idea? Did he read Breakfast of Champions at age 15? Did he steal the idea from the character in the book who dies by ingesting Drano? If I email Ben and ask him this will he reply or even remember?
I also thought of Paul while reading Vonnegut. Paul once commented on the cussing in my writing. He felt it was too crude and wouldn’t be publishable if I kept the foul language in. Paul obviously had never read Vonnegut! Vonnegut is considered literary. His work is well respected and popular enough to be recognized and referenced. He bends genres and breaks all the rules. His coarse language reminded me of JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I also could see where Vonnegut influenced Stephen King—another Lost favorite. Literature can be coarse and still classic. It doesn’t have to be refined to be readable. A classic is a piece of work that speaks to the masses. Its themes must be universal, while its structure sound. Literature must be a solid body of work with some appeal. From the 1930s onward, Pulp Fiction also had popular appeal!
Vonnegut fits into the theme of this diary as well. He was the president of the Association for Secular Humanism.
Secular Humanism embraces morals and ethics without embracing God or the Christian Faith. That is not to say all Secular Humanists are Atheists. Some are Agnostic and others may even be Gnostic. Mostly Secular Humanists place reason and the scientific method above all else. They believe in an objective truth. They also support good will, tolerance and individual responsibility. A Secular Humanist wants to build a better world. Over all, it is a positive outlook and appealing organization!
Kurt Vonnegut is just one of many famous authors on the list of Secular Humanist authors that I found.. Some others I found interesting: Isaac Asimov, Albert Camus, EM Forrester, John Lennon, John Stuart Mill, Phillip Pullman, Gene Roddenberry, Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell and Charles Schulz.
Secular Humanism grew out of the Enlightenment in many ways. Without Rousseau, Hume, Locke and Paine, Secular Humanism might not exist—and neither would many of the characters on Lost for that matter!