Tag: Kurt Vonnegut

Famous Authors and Their Pets

There’s nothing cozier than curling up with a good book and your furry companion. People have always had a special relationship with their pets; they offer us friendship and unconditional love, after all. Both classic and modern authors have had beloved pets that inspired their works and provided them with companionship. Here are a few.

 

1. STEPHEN KING’S CORGI MOLLY, THE THING OF EVIL

Image via Toronto Star

Renowned horror writer Stephen King loves his Pembroke Welsh corgi, Molly, who he refers to as “The Thing of Evil.” On Twitter, he likes to chronicle all the devious things she likes to do, such as enjoying (tearing up) boxes of tissues and raisin bran, relaxing after committing atrocious deeds, and hunting down the Purple Dinosaur of Decency (pictured above).

 

2. CHESTER HIMES’ SIAMESE CAT GRIOT

Image via LitHub

Crime fiction author Chester Himes, the creator of the Harlem Detective series, has had many cats. Griot, a blue point Siamese, was his favorite. Griot, Himes explained, was “named after the magicians in the courts of West African kings.” Himes would take Griot with him everywhere. If he didn’t, he would come home to find Griot had destroyed everything.

3. FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S PEACOCKS

Image via PBS

Author and essayist Flannery O’Connor, known for the thrilling and chilling short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” loved birds, peacocks especially. On her estate in Georgia, she raised over 100 peafowls, who she referred to in essays as “Kings of the Birds.”  She kept ducks, emu, ostriches, and possibly toucans as well.

 

4. LORD BYRON’S actual, literal bear

Image via The Paris Review

If there’s one thing you could always count on Romantic poet Lord Byron, it’s to be flamboyantly petty. Lord Byron attended Trinity College in the early 1800’s and hoped to bring his dog Boatswain with him. When he was told that his beloved dog could not come with him, Lord Byron purchased a tamed bear and tried to bring it to school with him instead. He wrote to his friend Elizabeth Prigot, “I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When I brought him here, they asked me what to do with him, and my reply was, ‘he should sit for a fellowship.'”

5. GEORGE R.R. MARTIN’S TORTOISES GAMERA AND MORLA

Image via GRRM’s Twitter

Fantasy writer George R.R. Martin has always loved turtles. As a child, they were the only pet he was allowed to keep. They lived in a castle, and Martin would pretend that they were kings and knights, fighting in battles. He cites this as where he got his inspiration for Game of Thrones, and their deaths inspired the more gruesome moments in the series. He currently has two tortoises, Morla and her “younger brother” Gamera.

 

6. KURT VONNEGUT’S DOG PUMPKIN

Image Via NYT

Pumpkin was a little shaggy dog and Sci-fi writer Kurt Vonnegut’s near-constant companion. On his affection for Pumpkin and dogs in general, Vonnegut had this to say, “I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs.”

 

7. Charles Dickens’s Raven Grip

Image via Brain Pickings

Grip was the pet Raven of famed English author Charles Dickens. Grip apparently had a very extensive vocabulary for a bird, and Dickens wrote him into one of his lesser known works, Barnaby Rudge. When Edgar Allen Poe, still only a critic at the time, read it and was inspired by the fictional Grip to write his poem “The Raven.” Grip ate a paintchip in 1841, and passed away a few months later. A brokenhearted Charles Dickens had the bird taxidermied, and Grip now resides in the Philidelphia Free Library.

 

8. The Hemingway cats

Image via The Humane Society of Broward County

No list of author pets would be complete without mentioning Ernest Hemingway’s cats. Hemingway was gifted a little six-toed kitten named Snow White. Soon after, he began to adopt more cats, which led to even more kittens being born, around half of them having the same genetic mutation as Snow White. Now the descendants of these cats roam Hemingway’s house turned museum in Key West, Florida.

 

Take a little time to appreciate your own pet today. You never know, they might just inspire the next great work!

Featured image via Florida weekly

 

5 Famous Authors Who Were Veterans

Veteran's Day is a day to honor those who have served in the military. We thank them for their service and their sacrifice. Many beloved authors of classic works have served in the U.S military, and their experiences fighting in various wars have shaped the things that they write about. The five following authors were all shaped and inspired by their time in the military, and some of their works might not have ever been created if they did not serve.

Read more

Girl surrounded by books and reading

17+ Short Books You Can Read In One Day

...even if you’re reading this at any other time of the year when you just managed to scrape out a whole day (or two) to read, then it wouldn’t hurt to keep this list in mind…

Read more

Kurt Vonnegut Portrait

The 50th Anniversary of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ is Upon Us

I wish I could tell you the exact circumstances under which I first encountered Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time, but I can’t. Not exactly. I’m not sure whether it was assigned reading in one of my middle school English classes or if I just stumbled upon it. The latter makes more sense when taking into consideration two facts: a lot of schools had banned books like Slaughterhouse-Five, and I was a pretty awful student back when George W. was in the white house. What I do remember is that when I first began reading the soon to be fifty-year-old novel (March 31th) I was in a white, windowless room, being stared at by a teacher who had clearly drawn the short straw that afternoon. Detention. I would like to think that Mr. Vonnegut would find irony in that scenario; perhaps it would even make him smile.

 

Image Via Thetakeout.com

 

Or Not.

Imagine being an unsuspecting delinquent, opening Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death for the first time: I was blown away by how psychedelic it was. Vonnegut’s prose was irreverent, ridiculous, and, above all, courageous. Vonnegut plunged blindly into the abyss of existential uncertainty and danced in the darkness. One of the most imaginative novels ever written with a minimalist style—Slaughterhouse-Five felt like Vonnegut knew a hell of a lot more about the world and grammar than me and was choosing words that I could understand. Maybe there was nothing to understand? It was pretty damn cool. Vonnegut made literature cool—especially for a kid in detention.

 

 

Image Via wrbh.org

 

In the introduction to Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut explains how he had been trying to write about the firebombing of Dresden during World War II ever since his imprisonment there. This is the reason that Slaughterhouse’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, was also in Dresden during the bombing. Billy’s story is an interesting one—the narrative of his life involves just as much love, humor, and tragedy as anything you could probably imagine. What makes it uber unique is that Billy acquires a certain amount of objectivity similar to the reader’s own. Billy is “unstuck” in time as he has no control over where and when in his life he might be at any given moment. One moment, Billy could be at his daughter’s wedding—the next, fornicating with a movie star. It’s all very non-linear. This ability is supposedly a side-effect of his Tralfamadorian kidnapping; extraterrestrial beings teach Billy to see time in a very Matthew McConaughey-like (Interstellar) way. All moments are permanent, always happening, forever. Billy is most definitely an unreliable narrator throughout, and Slaughterhouse-Five‘s chaos can undoubtedly be interpreted in a variety of ways. All I knew at that time was that I needed more Vonnegut.

 

Image Via Quickmeme.com

 

Vonnegut is famous for incorporating reoccurring elements into his novels, such as characters, names, and themes. (He also likes to write himself into his stories and could be considered a pioneer of “meta,” but that’s beside the point.) One of the things about Slaughterhouse-Five I found most compelling was the incorporation of the Tralamadorians or the planet Tralamadore. So I followed the Tralamdorians. Tralamdore is the name of various fictional planets in Kurt Vonnegut’s novels; the race and history of the planet vary from novel to novel (Slaughterhouse-Five; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Hocus Pocus; and Timequake). My alien chasing eventually led me to one of Vonnegut’s earlier novels, The Sirens of Titan.

 

Image Via Goodreads.com

 

While not as popular as Slaughterhouse, The Sirens of Titan is considered by some to be Vonnegut’s best novel. (Maybe just me… no, I read someone else say that before. I’m sure of it.) Douglas Adams has even cited Sirens as being his inspiration for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Written ten years prior to Slaughterhouse-Five‘s publication, simply to satisfy Vonnegut’s publisher as they awaited Cat’s Cradle, Sirens is considered less “experimental.” Although the story is linear and Vonnegut himself does not make an appearance—its message is anything but typical.

Sirens follows Malachi Constant, a man with an extraordinary amount of luck—men and women of the cloth might even call his luck divine (although Vonnegut would make fun of them for doing so).  At the beginning of the novel, the reader meets Malachi’s father, Noel, who builds the family fortune buying stocks based on words from the book of Genesis. Malachi inherits this fortune and builds upon it, becoming the wealthiest playboy in the world.

One day, Malachi is invited to witness the materialization of a man, Winston Niles Rummford, whose existence has been stretched across space and time (due to a mishap with his dog and something called a chrono-synclastic infundibulum), similar to Billy Pilgrim’s conundrum. Rummford’s ability to read minds and predict the future startles Malachi as Rummford tells him about his future. In addition, he shows Malachi a photograph of the most beautiful women Malachi has ever seen—women who supposedly inhabit the planet of Titan. As Malachi tries to outwit Rummford’s manipulation and pursue the kind of unattainable beauty of the women in the photo, the reader goes on a nihilistic yet humorous journey through space. It is with an engrossing amount of ridiculousness that the novel contemplates free-will, morality, and existence.

Some might find the novel’s humor cold. Others may find its message to be a commentary on the futility of fighting fate or attempting to understand it, given that even the novel’s omniscient character succumbs to the inevitable. I found the novel’s climatic revelation actually quite moving.

 

Mild Spoiler Alert!

 

After years of space travel, mind control, a Martian invasion, and a religion formed in his honor (sort of), Malachi finally finds himself on Titan. There, Vonnegut reveals that the beautiful sirens from Rummford’s photo are inanimate statues on an uninhabited planet. In fact, the only people who reside on Titan are Malachi and his family. As Malachi sits there, alongside a woman he never intended to be with and a son that thinks he’s a bird (didn’t I say ridiculousness?) he realizes that the “purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

Vonnegut wrote both Slaughterhouse and Sirens with a serious outpouring of emotions—but, most importantly, he wrote with immense joy. He loved writing: he did it to discover more about the world and himself. In 2006, a group of students from a high school in New York City was assigned the task of writing to their favorite author. Their letters warranted the following response, which I think epitomizes the heart and soul behind 50+ years of kick-ass storytelling:

Image Via Letters of Note

 

 

Featured Image Via My Student Voices.