Jailbird

So, “the global economic crisis” finally hit home for me a few weeks ago when I decided in all my adult maturity that I would cancel my weekend subscription to The New York Times.  I figured it was the least I could do to try to be more fiscally responsible.  This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I won’t be waking up to the paper Saturday and Sunday morning.  In a way, I feel like this burden of responsibility has been lifted from me, like, I am liberated from the responsibility of going through the paper on the weekends and getting through as much of it as possible.  I feel as though I have been cut loose, as it were, and it isn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be.  In fact, it has altered the way that I view my train reading time.  While I used to read the Times Magazine on Mondays and Tuesdays I now have this availability available to me.  That said, this week my train book is Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird.  My copy looks like this:

jailbirdold 200px-jailbirdvonnegut

I’m borrowing it from my roommate, and sad for him (and me really) but the paperback is so old and yellowy that the cover and pages are essentially crumbling in the fingers.  I’ve been trying to be delicate but as it turns out I’m just not that delicate at all.  I think I already knew this about myself.

I’m glad that I picked this book up now though, as the content is pretty pertinent at the moment.  The story is about a Walter Starbuck, who is being released from a white collar prison for completely unfortunate luck while serving as one of the lowest of the low advisers in Nixon’s whitehouse.  It’s a real hoot, obviously.  No irony intended.   KV always makes me consider the bigger implications of our collective actions.  The way things are (a lot of the time) never what we intend.

Anyway, as I was about to get off the train this morning, while standing in front of the door, hat on, hood up, KV in hand, I looked across the car and noticed this cute girl, hat on, hood up, reading this:

jailbird-new1

This was intensely gratifying to me.

I am so small

Someone who is not small though is Kurt Vonnegut.

Of his 8 rules for writing a story, number 7 is as follows:

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Perhaps this is the chill I’ve been feeling all these years.

Number 3 states:

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

This is a good lesson for daily life, I think.

What appeals to me about Breakfast of Champions is that Vonnegut’s made-up world for the self is so openly acknowledged.  Some retreat further into it than others.  Some prefer not to retreat at all.    But that we always are existing amongst another conjuction feels pretty accurate to me.  A series of moments, yes.  But how to rectify the problem of fatalism.  I can reasonably believe and understand that “human beings [are] huge, rubbery test tubes […] with chemical reactions seething inside.”  Mechanics only seem to be a problem when certain functions are permanently disabled.  Defunct.  When things are disengaged.  I guess that is why people write new worlds and why they write themselves into them.  In mine, I can cause abnormal growth of things like antlers or tree branches on people at will.  I can make stand-alone miniature mouths, which do my biding invisibly.  I find solace in the solace Vonnegut finds in Kilgore Trout.