Thursday, April 12, 2007
Kurt Vonnegut, 1922 - 2007
(check out the image at vonnegut.com)
Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday, April 11th, 2007. He was a master of satire but even more, he was an exceedingly clever man. I'm certainly not a numerologist, but I noticed that not only does his death date rhyme, but his birth date (11-11-22) adds nicely. Very clever, sir.
Originally, I had typed up this portion of Deadeye Dick on another blog that I used to maintain.
"Deadeye Dick," like "Barnacle Bill," is a nickname for a sailor. A deadeye is a rounded wooden block, usually bound with rope or iron, and pierced with holes. The holes receive a multiplicity of lines, usually shrouds or stays, on an old-fashioned sailing ship. But in the American Middle West of my youth, “Deadeye Dick” was an honorific often accorded to a person who was a virtuoso with firearms.
So it is a sort of lungfish of a nickname. It was born in the ocean but it adapted to life ashore.
There are several recipes in this book, which are intended as musical interludes for the salivary glands. They have been inspired by James Beard’s American Cookery, Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, and Bea Sandler’s The African Cookbook. I have tinkered with the originals, however – so no one should use this novel for a cookbook.
Any serious cook should have the reliable originals in his or her library anyway.
There is a real hotel in this book, the Grand Hotel Oloffson in Port au Prince, Haiti. I love it, and so would almost anybody else. My dear wife Jill Krementz and I have stayed there in the so-called “James Jones Cottage,” which was built as an operating room when the hotel was headquarters for a brigade of United States Marines, who occupied Haiti, in order to protect American financial interests there, from 1915 until 1934.
The exterior of that austere wooden box has subsequently been decorated with fanciful, jigsaw gingerbread, like the rest of the hotel.
The currency of Haiti, by the way, is based on the American collar. Whatever an American dollar is worth, that is what a Haitian dollar is worth and actual American dollars are in general circulation. There seems to be no scheme in Haiti, however, for retiring worn-out dollar bills, and replacing them with new ones. So it is ordinary there to treat with utmost seriousness a dollar which is as insubstantial as a cigarette paper, and which has shrunk to the size of an airmail stamp.
I found one such bill in my wallet when I got home from Haiti a couple of years ago, and I mailed it back to Al and Sue Seitz, the owners and host and hostess of the Oloffson, asking them to release it into its natural environment. It could never have survived a day in New York City.
preface, Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut
This is pretty good too. From the short story: “Welcome to the Monkey House” (1968)
“If you go back through history, you’ll find that the people who have been most eager to rule, to make the laws, to enforce the laws and to tell everybody exactly how God Almighty wants things here on earth – those people have forgiven themselves and their friends for anything and everything. But they have been absolutely disgusted and terrified by the natural sexuality of common men and women.”