Short Story Festival Day.

I think we’ve all been very bad this year. The Old Man of the Short Story gave us something worse than a lump of coal this morning.

My morning started out promising so much delight, but my giddiness has been somewhat squashed by the news today that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., died last night. It just so happens that Kurt Vonnegut is not only one of my favorite authors, but he is also one of my all-time favorite humans. The Humanist in me doesn’t feel exactly sad about all of this–death is inevitable, and in a sense all of us live our lives with the only goal of leaving something worthwhile behind after we are gone. Why bother? Because it’s fun, and interesting. In that sense, Vonnegut’s death is so much less tragic than most. He left behind a body of writing that not only expresses perfectly the tragicomedy of human existence, but that also totally inspires me to be more attentive to my own life–my attitude and actions. He inspires me not only by how he wrote but also by how he lived. He was an honestly imperfect, somewhat “flawed” individual, but he never pulled a punch when discussing himself or others. I’m not a cultish type of hero-follower; I reserve these kinds of sentiments to only a very few perfectly ordinary individuals, and he was one of them.

I don’t know. I guess the emotion rising up in my gut every time I think about this today has everything to do with my sense of gratitude for the beauty this generous man created for the rest of us, and not much to do with the death of another nice old guy. Because of the way he lived his life, his death actually gives us reason to pause to consider hopefully the possibilities for our own lives. Those of us still waiting around to die should live and create in a way that justifies and builds on his extraordinary contributions.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


Ahem. We went on with class. The festival was spectacular indeed. In fact, we have only just begun the reading and the discussion. We spent a few minutes talking to the author of each story after they read, but some of their comments were quite enlightening. I’m attempting to let each of you see some of the different strategies successful authors use, and each story we’ve read so far has been in some way successful. Tomorrow we’ll complete the reading, and then vote on two major awards:

  • The Mustache D’Or award will be presented to the story featuring the most interesting, ridiculous, or realistic character.
  • The (recently renamed) Kurt Vonnegut Best Story of the Festival award will be presented to the story voted “best.”

Although these awards will most likely make one person feel a little to good about her/himself, and the rest of us feel like something that the cat dragged in, we must honor excellence.

Caveat emptor!


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