Monday, September 05, 2005

Finding Vonnegut

The first story that I read of his was a short one called Welcome to the Monkey House from a book of short stories titled the same. The second was Harrison Bergeron from the same book. My English teacher in school had us read it for an assignment and the next thing I knew, I was buying up his books. I would recommend this book to anyone but I don’t know as if this is a good place to start. Most people say, Slaughter House Five, which does give the reader the general picture of most of his books, man’s humanity toward man, or inhumanity; however it is not really representational of his work. I don’t think any one book is because they are all so different.

I wasn’t really buying up all of his books because I stole a few from my brothers that were older than me and read them. I did the same with their philosophy books as well. It is great to have an older brother in college when you are an outcast in grade school because you read the uncensored version of Huck Fin while your classmates had no clue as to what the controversy was seeing as some guy with a critics mind cleaned up Huck. I mention Twain because Vonnegut is in that category of greatness.

If I remember correctly these are the books of his that I read as a teenager, and how many times if have read them:

Welcome to the Monkey House (4)
Cat’s Cradle (2)
Breakfast of Champions (2)
Slapstick (1)
The Sirens of Titan (1)
Jailbird (2) Palm Sunday (5)
Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (5)
Galapagos (2)

(The above was in, around and just after I graduated from grade school.)

When I entered college I liked it when people mentioned Vonnegut and I would pretend that I had no clue as to who he was or that I ever read his work. It was fun because these wonderful souls would lend me copies of their tattered books and let me read them. Then they would offer their own insight into his work. I love to hear people talk about their interpretations of artists because more often than not the laypersons interpretation is much better than any critic. You might say that I don’t care much for critics and you would be right. Rarely does a critic have anything to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by the librarian, housewife, construction worker, and so on. I think most critics hang around libraries to hear what the librarian has to say, the same with an art critic who hangs around a gallery listening in on artists, students, men, women and children looking at art. If you are looking for originality never look to a critic.

This is my list of books read after, during and in around professional schooling:

Bluebeard (3)
Mother Night (4)
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater (3)
Time Quake (1)
Slaughterhouse Five (6)
Bagombo Snuff Box (2)
God Bless You, Dr Kevorkian (6)
Like Shaking Hands with God (a conversation about writing) w/ Lee Stringer (4)
A Man without a Country (1, I am currently reading this one)

This list is not in any order of any kind other than the first one, Welcome of the Monkey House.

The first time I read Vonnegut it was like being let in on a secret that no one else knew, kind of like sex or drugs. I recommend the first but the second not as much, clouds the brain a bit. It is like sex for the brain, reading one of his books, because you end up thinking much more about it after you have done it, much more than while reading it or doing it. It is like a secret because most people talk about the books that are on the top ten lists or in the shallows of school libraries and most people don’t discuss their sex lives openly like they do a top ten novelist. Vonnegut has been banned by many school libraries but if you ask a good school librarian they will tell you where to find him. Vonnegut is an orgy for the synapses that few authors can do.

He has above all passion in his writing. It may not be technically correct all of the time but his humanity overcomes any and all miscues that could lead the reader astray. It may be a fine thing to be technically correct in what you write but any one with the proper schooling can write a sentence that is technically correct. It takes an author to make it interesting and passionate. Of all of his work I do go back and read his speeches in the collections of his.

I occasionally have to give a speech and I try to get some inspiration from him when I am bidding goodbye to a group of preschoolers. One time I spent a month preparing a speech correlating life in Upstate NY with the book The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein. The year previous I did a speech on the book The Giving Tree and it went well so I tried to capture that again but I missed terribly. One person came up to me and asked if I had ever spoken in public before. I told her not sober, seeing as I was her child’s teacher that did not go over well. The child did not show up the following day. In the words of Vonnegut, “so it goes.”

I would like to think that it was not my fault but it was. From my experiences speaking in public I have discovered the author’s worst nightmare, the reader not understanding what is said. It is the same with art. This happens often with most art and writing. Many times readers are looking for a friendly conversation with an author when they pick up a book and not a fight for their brain. In art that would be the difference between the Hudson River School of Art and or Ansel Adams’ troop in photography. Imagine a person who adores Adams then putting him in a room full of Robert Doisneau’s photos or someone that worships Rockwell and then put him or her in a room full of Jackson Pollock’s work. You will either find the person convulsing on the floor in a fit of rage or with newfound respect for something different. The latter is rarely the case.

Vonnegut is not a cosy, cosy, cosy read. He will stretch your brain and then snap it back in place with a ripple effect that is like a child jumping in a puddle. Sit back and watch a kid jump full force into a puddle. The knees bend to a squat until the muscles pull them downward. A smile comes across the child’s face as their legs push up against the downward pull. They leap through the air with their legs apart and feet splayed out. Noses squinch and their feet splash into the puddle spraying the water in all directions. The child has no regard for the clothes they have or don’t have on. It is a jump into the tiny abyss.

If I were to say where to start with Vonnegut I would have to say it depends on where your head is at. If you are a person who likes things to be a little off and on the strange side then I would say start with Galapagos or Breakfast of Champions. For most I would say that I would recommend starting with Blue Beard, God Bless You Mr Rosewater, Mother Night and then read Slaughter House Five. Finally read everything else. After you have read all of his books, I haven’t mentioned all of his books, and then I would start over again but not right away. Give your head a rest for a while in-between.

©WCDUNCAN all rights reserved.

Sunday, August 28, 2005



Went out shopping yesterday, Saturday, the first place I had to go to was Staples. I am not much of a shopper at all, I prefer to buy things on line and have it delivered. Sure is may cost a bit more with the shipping but it is like Christmas year round because of the packages.

The store was not busy and I had a list so I knew exactly what I wanted and needed, Ink. Normally I order it from Amazon but I needed to make some prints and haven’t the time to wait for the packages. I go into the store and notice the ink display straight away. I go over and look at the many different kinds on ink and look at my list, I do this again and again. When I do find what I need I go and check out. The girl at the register was attractive but young. She smiles at me and we chat a bit.

It is strange to me because I used to weigh a bit more than I do now. I am exercising and watching what I eat so I have lost weight and look and feel better. A woman at the bank did the same thing. I feel younger than I am.

I leave and go to Barnes and Noble. My nephew’s birthday is coming up and he wanted a book on dinosaurs. I ask for the one he wanted and the clerk can’t help me. The book he wanted could be either found in the children’s section or in the sciences so it not being in the children’s section I go and look for the science books. They are near the children’s section so it wasn’t hard to find them but the book that I was looking for is not there.

I go and look around the store. You never know there may be a hidden science section where they keep Darwin and Freud away from Christians. It is possible because I did not find Darwin at all or Freud, although my nephew is too young to read them anyway. I look up as the music in the store changes to the opera with a tenor who sound like he is getting his testicular region placed in a vice. He is moaning and warbling on and on about how knows what because I don’t speak or understand Italian.

Laughter comes over me and I chuckle when he starts into a full force moan that can only be compared to a prostate check up. I few faces look up at me from their books and double lattes, but no one, says a thing. That is the great thing about going to Barnes and Noble. No one dares say much of anything to anyone else. All it is is just sipping on coffee and reading. Sip, sip, sip, read, read, and read. The only voices in the store are an Italian man groaning and clerks desperately trying to aid customers. I did find two books that I am sure my nephew will like, Tom Sawyer and Call of the Wild. It is difficult buying books for him because I am used to buying preschool level books or chapter books to read to help in naptime.

My last stop is a Dicks Sporting Goods. I walk in and notice no sporting goods at all. There are a lot of clothes and shoes but no soft strike baseballs which is what I need. Throwing is one thing but catching is another with four year olds. I jump up to see the sings for the store sections and find the actual sporting goods in a small area near hunting clothes and shorts that most parents of a girl would never allow to be put on their child. I think they must be cheerleader outfits.

I get my baseballs and go home. Shopping today was a success. I got what I wanted but I still prefer getting the boxes of packages delivered to me. The UPS guy is like Santa to me. He is not fat and doesn’t wear a red suit; instead it is brown like a homage to the Druids. The fat guy in the red suit is my Father Christmas in December but the rest of the year the UPS guy in my Santa.

©WCDUNCAN all rights reserved.

Friday, August 19, 2005


I am going to give this blog a fresh start. I have been very busy lately with work, writing, and photography so this has been neglected. I do not have the time to look around the web all day long for things that are funny or odd or whatever. So I will just write and keep anyone who wants to know what I am doing updated. I may have the Nutjob of the moment here and there but from now on it will be just me writing.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Pope Hates Potter

Pope reportedly no fan of PotterItems compiled from Tribune news services

Published July 15, 2005

BERLIN, GERMANY -- In a letter sent two years before becoming pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern that Harry Potter books "erode Christianity in the soul" of young people, a German writer says.The comments came in letters between then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Gabriele Kuby, a sociologist who wrote a book criticizing J.K. Rowling's blockbusters. In a letter dated March 7, 2003, Ratzinger thanked Kuby for sending him a copy of "your informative book."

This may make some difference to some parents out there but in reality what book in recent years has gotten kids reading? It certainly isn’t the bible. Many parents should be thankful for authors like Rowling who get kids to read. If the Pope doesn’t like kids reading then who cares?

Hornby and Bruce

A fan's eye view Nick Hornby has always been a Springsteen fan, and listened to his music every day while writing his latest bestseller. But he never had the chance to meet his hero - until The Boss came to london for his recent Royal Albert Hall shows. In this OMM exclusive, the star reveals how he keeps abreast of modern music via his son, and why the likes of 'Born to Run' continue to inspire Sunday July 17, 2005 Earlier on in the week that I met Bruce Springsteen, and before I knew I was going to meet him, I'd decided I was going to send him a copy of my new book. I got his home address off a mutual friend, and signed it to him, and the book was lying around in my office in an unstamped Jiffy bag when the editor of this magazine asked if I'd like to do this interview. So I took the book with me.

I wasn't expecting him to read the bloody thing, nor even to keep it, and yet even so it seemed like something I needed to do. A Long Way Down was fuelled by coffee, Silk Cuts and Bruce (specifically, a 1978 live bootleg recording of 'Prove it all Night', which I listened to a lot on the walk to my office as I was finishing the book). And Springsteen is one of the people who made me want to write in the first place, and one of the people who has, through words and deeds, helped me to think about the career I have had since that initial impulse. It seems to me that his ability to keep his working life fresh and compelling while working within the mainstream is an object lesson to just about anyone whose work has any sort of popular audience.

Another good aritcle with Hornby...

BTW: Thanks Paul

For the whole thing:,13887,1527571,00.html

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Nutjob of the Moment

Munich - A drunken American tourist has been arrested for breaking into a zoo and feeding beer and ice cream - which he had allegedly stolen - to a tiger.The man is believed to have stolen the beer and ice cream from the zoo shop and, as well as handing it to the tiger, drank so much himself that he passed out.The 26-year-old was found by zookeepers the next day, still out cold, in front of the panda cage in Munich's Hollabrunn Zoo.He has been charged with trespassing, theft and abusing animals. -

Friday, July 08, 2005

More Boobies

I hate to belabour a point but…

Man Arrested For Exposing Breasts
Click for larger images.
(WCPO/ Reported by: 9NewsWeb produced by: Mark SickmillerPhotographed by: 9NewsLast updated: 7/5/2005 6:02:56 PM

A Cincinnati man has been charged with public indecency for exposing his breasts.
Jerome Mason, a 23-year-old from Over-The-Rhine, appeared in court Tuesday after being cited for public indecency just after midnight on April 22nd.

It's unclear if the man has breasts that are larger than the average male's or if he has breast implants. Mason has several mug shots on file. In the past he has had run-ins with police on such charges as receiving stolen property and disorderly conduct.

Linky (with pictures and not those kind of pictures):