Dear Mr. Vonnegut,
I should, as an avid reader and fan of fiction, hate you.
Not you, personally, of course, but your writing. Your works. Your sentence structure is simple like that of a kindergartener, you babble on endlessly about devices tha hardly move the plot forward, and your stories talk about, in nearly all cases, absolutely nothing.
But oh, how beautiful you make out nothing to be.
I have read every one of your novels, and Breakfast of Champions is, to me, your masterpiece, even though you yourself say you aren’t proud of it on multiple occasions in the story. It’s a satirical self-portrait, focusing on the darkest brushstrokes of yourself, American history, and human nastiness in general, all leading up to a revelation in which you yourself realize that, although we don’t often see it, everyone is a work of art. While many artists guise their troubled selves behind the moniker of a created character, you boldly thrust your own person into the heart of the novel, acknowledging the fact that yes, this novel was painful for you to write, yes, this is your own personal form of therapy, and yes, you have come out a greater man because of it.
It’s this literary bravado of yours that was illuminative to me. I’ve witnessed and personally experienced countless scenarios where I’ve had to hide behind my true feelings, droop my head low and meander along with the crowd, afraid that someone might discover my emotional dungeon, unshackle me from the chains of privacy I created for myself, and thrust myself into the sunshine of truth. The truth you so simply iterate in your novel.
That everyone is beautiful.
That everybody, no matter what they’ve done, no matter what they’ve partaken in, has their own wonderful story to be told. That’s why you babble. That’s why, while everyone else is worrying about the proper use of semicolons and literary theory, you’re telling the story of the slave woman who worked on the farm of the man whose son grew up to be a secondary character in your novel. But then, in the world you’ve created, there are no secondary characters.
There are only people, and they are all beautiful.
I think you say it best yourself in the novel. You compare people to yeast, drowning in their own excrement, wondering to themselves what their purpose is, why they exist. And they never stop to think that the most important thing they can do is simply live and be beautiful. They never stop to think they are making champagne.
This epiphany of equality is why you take such a minimalist approach in your books; not out of ineptitude, but out of compassion. A truth such as this doesn’t need a thesis statement; it should be natural to all of us. Dignity is not relative. But we’ve become so caught up in constructing our own cultural suit of armor or pride and one-upmanship that we fail to understand what you’ve so subtly pointed out to me, what you yourself discover in front of my eyes as I turn Breakfast of Champions’ pages. I see you address slavery, rape, and suicide, trying them all together by the common thread of ignorance.
Of forgetting that everyone is beautiful.
You continue on and challenge every criticism American has ever received, and satirize it until I’m laughing to myself. But if I wasn’t trying to hide my emotions, I’d be crying. Because it’s all true. Murder is real, slavery is real, sex trafficking is real, and some people still haven’t realized that they’re all disgusting. But then, some people haven’t read Breakfast of Champions.
I’m not saying your book is some sort of sacred text that will change the world if everyone reads it. I’m not. All I’m saying is that it’s an enlightening read, and it’s nice to see someone fearlessly come out and proclaim, “I am diseased. But that’s the way I should be.”
So even though I should hate your book because it breaks about every rule anyone ever taught me about manners, life, and creative writing, I don’t. I love it. It changed my perspective for the better, which in hand changes those around me. So thank you Kurt Vonnegut.
Thank you for being beautiful.
Sincerely, your biggest fan,