16 May 2007

narrower audience = greater significance

A forward of a forward of a forward. It's short and sweet and wonderful and made me tear up as I read it from my E62, standing in front of Babeland in the Lower East Side. How's that for a juxtaposition.

In 1985 Kurt Vonnegut gave a talk at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor and I got to see him for the first and only time in my life. After the talk he walked offstage, and I walked up the auditorium aisle to a doorway that opened to a backstage hallway.

When I went through the door, Vonnegut was standing right there, alone in the hallway, looking a little unsure of where he was supposed to go next. I walked up and said hello, and told him that I enjoyed his talk and reading his books. I had a new copy of his novel Galápagos and asked if he would sign it, and he did. It's a really great signature.

I really don't remember exactly what he might have said to me in the few moments we chatted, but I remember he was friendly and pleasant. Just as he finished signing my book, we both heard a noise and looked down the hall at the same time. About 50 feet away was a herd of college students heading right for us, waving tattered paperback copies of Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle and yelping stuff at Vonnegut.

Vonnegut handed my book back to me, looked me right in the face, gave me kind of a half-smile and said, "Gotta go."
He walked off at a brisk pace in the opposite direction of the approaching herd, though a doorway, and he was gone.

If you read Kurt Vonnegut with care you can find some wonderful quotes on almost any page, and usually they all add up to a pretty great book.

But "Gotta go" is my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote, because he said it to me.

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