It was two years ago today that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. passed away. It doesn't seem all that long ago, really, and looking back on what I had written when I found out, I still feel much the same way.
I wish he could have seen how far the world has come in the two short years since his passing. We've ceded control of the country back from people named Bush, Dick and Colin, elected a black man president, and entered a brand new Great Depression.
In order to offer a remembrance of Mr. Vonnegut, I'd like to share with you a letter I wrote him but never sent. Dated February 18, 2006, it was written just over a year prior to his death. I typed it up on an old Corona typewriter.
I regret not sending it.
Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.,
My name is Bryan Young and this is the second letter I've written you, but only the first I've sent. I read the first letter I wrote to you and crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. What it had to say was this: I'm 25, I've read almost your complete library every year since I was 15 and respect, admire, and cherish you and what you have said in the last 60-plus years, using only idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines, with ink on bleached and flattened wood pulp, of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and about eight punctuation marks. In it, I also mentioned that you, your books, and your overly infectious ideas are what gave me the courage to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking and writing screenplays.
I didn't quit my day job.
The overall point of my first, unsent, letter was to give you some solace in the fact that youth isn't entirely useless. (Not the state of being youthful, merely those of us with less experience and wisdom as you.) There are still those of us who care about history and Abraham Lincoln and reading newspapers and Mark Twain and Sacco and Vanzetti. There are some of us who still type with typewriters and send letters (see, you're holding the proof in your hands!) and care about those around us.
Sadly, my last letter lacked eloquence. So far, I don't feel this one does either, but it's much closer.
The point that I wanted to make with my first letter, but failed to do so, was this: Your work has made a difference. Maybe it didn't change the world, but it certainly changed me (and those whom I force your books upon). Your message will be carried on by those of us courageous (or foolish) enough to carry it.
Before I go, I want to apologize for the familiarity with which I write this letter to you. I've read your novels (and short stories, anthologies, and plays) so often and have for so long, that they're like visits to an old friend (or a late night drunken phone call to old buddies from school.) Although we've never met and never communicated, I feel as though you're sort of a father figure, or a very old friend.
I hope you are well. Perhaps you'll publish another anthology of essays and I'll be able to visit my old writing buddy one more time.
Sincerely and with all the respect in the world,
And so, on this solemn day, I'd suggest that you guys go buy some Kurt Vonnegut novels and actually read them. He still has a lot of knowledge and wisdom to offer the world, we just need to spread the word.
(Bryan Young is the writer and producer of Killer at Large, and he frequently tries to imitate Vonnegut on his personal blog.)