Week #21: Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
Someone told me recently that you either love or hate Vonnegut.
I love him.
Vonnegut is famous for a graduation speech he never gave in 1997 at MIT, where the main point was to “wear sunscreen”. But he did give a graduation speech at Rice University the next year, and he reprised this speech at the Free Library of Philadelphia on September 10, 1998. I recently downloaded and listened to this podcast from the Free Library website.
In this actual speech, Vonnegut calls the graduating students “Adams and Eves” who have just eaten the apple of knowledge and are now being kicked out of Eden. He then calls himself the Methuselah who has come to impart some wisdom. I love this sense of humor; in spite of his biting sarcasm and critiques of modern society Vonnegut always showcases his humanist sense of optimism.
Bluebeard, or The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, follows narrator Karabekian’s journey as an Abstract Expressionist. As with the Bluebeard fairy tale, Karabekian has had a number of wives. He did not kill them like Bluebeard, but he admits that he didn’t take care of them either. Vonnegut’s novel debates the value of art, artists, and greed. This wasn’t my favorite of his novels, but I would still recommend it.
So it goes.