Being Kurt

As a writer (even though he is not my favorite writer), I’ve always felt the most commonality with Kurt Vonnegut.

I am more like he was than I even realized, though.


Did you take a degree in chemistry at Cornell?


I was flunking everything by the middle of my junior year. I was delighted to join the army and go to war. After the war, I went to the University of Chicago, where I was pleased to study anthropology, a science that was mostly poetry, that involved almost no math at all.

Another very observant high-IQ person who has no ability at all in math. Supposedly we don’t exist, but actually it turns out we really, really do.

I understand how scientific reasoning and playfulness work, even though I have no talent for joining in. I enjoy the company of scientists, am easily excited and entertained when they tell me what they’re doing. I’ve spent a lot more time with scientists than with literary people.

I could never be a scientist, either, because being untrainably terrible at math precludes that, and also finding it excruciatingly boring certainly doesn’t help. At the same time, though, I feel no commonality at all with the pretentious and usually incredibly-ignorant lit set.

Back to Vonnegut, though. In 1993, I saw him speak in an auditorium at the University of Florida. As with writing, he had a talent for it and was insightful, droll and did what few teachers actually did in that he actually conveyed some important knowledge to me.

Very much worth the drive and what for me at the time was expensive gas. The talk itself like most of the best things in life was, however, free.