Sons of Suicide…


Sons of Suicides seldom do well.

Characteristically, they find life lacking a certain ZING. They tend to feel more rootless than most, even in a notoriously rootless nation. They are squeamishly incurious about the past and numbly certain about the future to this grisly extent: they suspect that they, too, will probably kill themselves.

This is from Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater (1965, p. 121), and as is often the case in his work he makes no effort to remove himself from the narrative. Drawing upon what would later be a subtle tone in Breakfast of Champions (1973), in his voice one catches the grief he experienced when, on Mother’s Day 1944, he learned about her suicide. There’s a line I particularly enjoy from Champions that channels these thoughts:

“This is a very bad book you’re writing,” I said to myself behind my leaks [sunglasses/mirrors].

“I know,” I said.

“You’re afraid you’ll kill yourself the way your mother did,” I said.

“I know,” I said. (p.193)

It’s these asides that I so admire in Vonnegut’s work. When I, as the reader, am pulled from the satirical, the ridiculous, into the sardonic, the personal, chills climb up my spine and I need to stop. It’s hard to go on as, behind his grin and in his laughter, so much else is revealed. The zany becomes serious and one wonders what the clowns were thinking the whole time they danced across the page.

Perhaps it’s appropriate I found this so close to father’s day.

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