Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut and Me

Several noteworth things happened in the last few days: Kurt Vonnegut died, and I took yet another trip to the ER. And really, if I don't stop that they're going to end up naming a wing after me.

So first the ER, and then Kurt Vonnegut.

I had a series of seizures in fairly rapid succession over the last couple of days. The neurologist said Get Thee to the ER for a large dose of Dilantin to stop the cascading effect, and off I went like a good little patient. And indeed, they checked my pulse, shined a light in my eyes, pronounced me basically healthy and gave me a massive dose of Dilantin. On top of the fairly massive dose of Lamictal I already take. That was yesterday morning at 10-ish. Today at 5:30-ish, 19 hours later, I feel like my eyeballs have stopped rolling around in my skull enough to blog about it.

Each seizure lowers the threshold for the next one, so they tend to come in waves like that. The reason we must control them, as he tells me ad naseum, is that they scar the area of the brain that's firing, and eventually kill that patch of brain cells. For me that would be the hippocampus, which is in charge of my already porous memory, and the sensory cortex, which is in charge of my five senses...which I hope to continue using for another good long while.

The moral of the story, kids, is never, ever put your skull in front of a speeding softball, or you'll be paying for it it ways you can't even imagine for decades.

And speaking of serendipity:

Kurt Vonnegut.

I love him. He wrote thin little novels packed with weighty ideas and presented in ways that made them so crystal-clear that his writing and his ideas helped clarify my generation. Slaughterhouse Five is one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time, with it's feckless hero, casual mayhem and wanton destruction. The take home message? There, but for the grace of God, goes all of us.

He wrote novels about war and evolution and time and a thousand other things that people who haven't had a bunch of seizure meds could descibe. He wrote essays and poems, gave lectures at universities, and did interviews on Public Radio. He was gruff and insightful, witty and sensitive and could make whatever topic was in his head important to us as well. You could feel the war, and marvel at the short-sightedness of humans, admire the graceful adaptive ingenuity of nature.

Vonnegut wrote in that kind of stream-of-consciousness style that starts out looking like the Topic Drift From Hell, but eventually would wrap back around and tie up the subject with a bow. He used short sentences and short paragraphs to maximum effect, and was so eminently readable that I read my first Vonnegut novel in junior high and my last one last year. He was engaging and relevant for every age.

I'll miss him, both for his books and his pithiness. He said something once about the booze and the drugs and the mental illness eventually killing him, but he somehow made it to 84 and died from a common accident instead. A brain injury, in fact.

So it goes.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I hope that you are feeling better.