Kurt Vonnegut is the first author that I ever truly loved. It started with Hocus Pocus and Slaughter House Five, but it really matured when I read his short stories in Welcome to the Monkey House. In each one of his longer works I could see him building the characters and the twisted plots over an entire book. In his shorter works, he had to do all of his development and cleverness so quickly. It was wonderful reading each short story for the first time and being surprised with each one that the last line would draw me in and make me question my assumptions.
I recently purchased an audio version of Welcome to the Monkey House, and I have been listening to them diligently as NPR is on a pledge week. Each turn of phrase that I admired is back in front of me. I never get tired of hearing about The Handicapper General in Harrison Burgeron or becoming Amphibious in Not Ready to Wear. Each character comes back me as clear as the first time I knew that they existed.
The erodes themselves are unnerving in their ease at creating something old and encouraging within me. It is as if these people reading the stories were the original ones in my head and I am just now hearing them outside for the first time. I am entranced. I hear those words and I am transported back to a time without responsibilities and nothing but free time. Vonnegut always had just enough satire and just enough punch lines to keep me conjuring up new images and metaphors that he could call at a monpment’s notice.
And so I think about what makes the words so special and my first instinct is to call upon nostalgia as the full answer. But in reality, it is simple bending of my body’s will to fulfill what my mind wants. You see, I am perfectly still when I am listening to these stories, at least so long as my gross motor movements are concerned. My body can’t get in the way of the words and neither can anything else. I listen and I obsorb. I wonder how often we let that happen?
The key to letting a voice affect you (and the things that the voice was saying, I sup lose) is to simply stop moving the rest of you long enough to let the voice bring you in. While the story should be good enough to hold your attention, it is all in the act of not moving that will translate from something that is good to something that changes lives. Putting my body in a vulnerable position(we are all vulnerable when we are still) let’s my ears and my mind become receptive.
It is in this spirit that I would like to sit with you. No questions asked and no unnecessary movements.