Armageddon in Retrospect
As soon as it came out in paperback, I bought Kurt Vonnegut’s last collection of stories, Armageddon in Retrospect. Then I promptly let it sit on my shelf for a month. Now that I’ve finally read it, I want to go back and reread A Man Without a County, as it only served to whet my appetite for more Vonnegut. Oh, how I miss him, and how I miss knowing he exists in the world.
I was first introduced to Vonnegut in college one summer when I borrowed four of his books from an ex-boyfriend. I was working 40 hours a week at a very empty university library that summer, and held myself to a goal of reading one book a day so that I would at least be accomplishing something. After reading four Vonnegut books in four days, I realized that I was trying to fight my depression instead of making a case for it, and then decided that Vonnegut needs to be consumed in measured doses. After all, one can only take so much truth about humanity at a time.
Still, I’d always go back for more, precisely because of what Vonnegut writes in Timequake: “Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'” I always feel as though I’ve received this message after reading Vonnegut, and I have missed that connection.
Armageddon in Retrospect is a collection of stories on war, as well as a letter Vonnegut wrote to his family after becoming a POW in World War II and the last speech he wrote. Somewhere in the midst of this range, it becomes clear where Vonnegut began in his thinking- and personal experiences- with war and where he landed. Some stories resonated more with me than others, but all were quite worth the read. I also loved the inclusions of illustrations by Vonnegut and his daughter, Edie. I do wish that “Cold Turkey” from In These Times had also been included, but perhaps that would have taken away from the fact that this collection exists without naming any names with regard to politics (aside from his speech), and may be more powerful for this lack of names.
All in all, I consider myself a lucky person to have lived during Kurt Vonnegut’s time, and this collection gave me a broader insight into events that shaped his writing and life long before me. Now it’s up to us to decide how we shape the world after him.