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24 March 2014 @ 06:36 am
As you know, Bob, Kurt Vonnegut said that we are what we pretend to be and then pretended to be a lovable simpleton. Since we are at most also what we pretend to be, Vonnegut remained a brilliant writer most of the time, but every so often he would say something like “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” Not only is the semicolon a useful device for people who do not want to write like lovable simpletons, but it can save lives.

Thanx to Chronicle
ruthling on March 24th, 2014 12:02 pm (UTC)
The project kind of gives me mixed/judgy feelings. But if it helps people, who am I to complain.
Johnjohnpalmer on March 24th, 2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
Agreed - this particular line stands out for me: "Every time you see it, think of something that makes life worth living".

It sounds so much like the moronic mumbling of some idiot who's never actually *been* deeply depressed. When I'm down in the pit, I can remember that there are times when I'm absolutely certain that dying isn't an answer, and that I will want to have lived through this, *someday*, but I can't think of something that makes life worth living, because when I'm deep down in the pit, *IT ISN'T*. Surviving until it becomes worth living, okay, yeah, I can do that, I've done that. But lying to myself doesn't help me at that stage.

It can, I admit, be helpful at other stages - the "climbing back out" stages, and the "having slipped and fallen into the pit, but in great danger of doing so" stages. But not then.

But I'm also very strongly in favor of whatever people value that gets them through.
A Wandering Hobbitredbird on March 24th, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
I would also ask, both what he thinks is wrong with "hermaphrodites" and transvestites, but on what basis a "hermaphrodite" could be called a "transvestite" when there is no set of gendered clothing that our culture considers appropriate to intersexed people. Not that Vonnegut is left to have that argument.
et in Arcadia egobooapostle_of_eris on March 24th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
My thought too: How can a hermaphrodite be a transvestite?
sturgeonslawyer: Defaultsturgeonslawyer on March 24th, 2014 03:22 pm (UTC)
Well, to be precise, Vonnegut said that we become what we pretend to be.
El Coyote Gordo: coy1supergee on March 24th, 2014 03:45 pm (UTC)
Can't find the book, but Wikiquote has "we are what we pretend to be."
et in Arcadia egobooapostle_of_eris on March 24th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
The introduction to Mother Night</i. Those two pages are the clearest summary of Vonnegut.
sturgeonslawyersturgeonslawyer on March 24th, 2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
H'mmm. He made the remark in several places. Perhaps he made it both ways. The one I'm thinking about is in Cat's Cradle.
El Coyote Gordo: rocket coyotesupergee on March 24th, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
I was quoting the opening of Mother Night, the first Vonnegut book to make me say "Who are you and what have you done with Kurt Vonnegut?" I may be even more ambivalent about Vonnegut than about Robert Heinlein. I love the Vonnegut who dreamed up the satirical dystopia of "Harrison Bergeron," I hate the one who wanted to do it. Love "Breakfast of Champions"; hate "Deadeye Dick." etc.

Edited at 2014-03-24 05:22 pm (UTC)
sturgeonslawyersturgeonslawyer on March 24th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Mother Night may be my favorite Vonnegut book, though I agree with you that his output was very uneven. I came to the party late and started with Slaughterhouse-5; the book that first made me go "Hunh? This is Vonnegut?" was Player Piano, which I found kind of boring - though that, in turn, may have been partly due to having seen Between Time and Timbuktu on PBS before I read it.

Edited at 2014-03-24 05:44 pm (UTC)
El Coyote Gordo: nebulasupergee on March 24th, 2014 06:09 pm (UTC)
In 1964 I saw a paperback that said, "If you like Voltaire, you'll love Kurt Vonnegut, jr." It was Cat's Cradle, and they were right. Player Piano struck me as an amusing entry in the Huxley/Orwell tradition.
et in Arcadia egobooapostle_of_eris on March 24th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
I believe Player Piano is the first sf about technological unemployment.
chasing the soul: typewriterkeysnovapsyche on March 24th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
Don't condemn me for being a Philistine, as I have yet to read any Vonnegut, so far as I can tell.

I just wanted to point out that without the semicolon, the first paragraph/sentence of Tale of Two Cities would not exist. I'm not a big proponent of that piece of literature (though it did pick up in the last third), but that opening is something to behold.

The semicolon is my favorite bit of punctuation, despite its noticeable lack of appearance in this response.
El Coyote Gordo: editsupergee on March 24th, 2014 11:20 pm (UTC)
Some of his stuff is really good, even though he didn't use semicolons.