Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt": Where does this come from?


Chances are you have flitted onto the log of this blog in a search of for the phrase "Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt." Perhaps you remember this epitaph from Slaughterhouse-Five. Or you've heard it somewhere else--in a song, in an essay, spray-painted on an underpass. Or you're wondering what others have said about it. In any case, I have few, if any, answers for you.

So it goes.

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I wrote a book, by the way. Ravenna Press published it in the fall of 2011. It's called Magnificent Mistakes. Click through. Check it out.

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Regarding Vonnegut, here's the relevant passage (or one, anyway):
"I look at you sometimes," said Valencia, "and I get a funny feeling that you're just full of secrets."
"I'm not," said Billy. This was a lie, of course. He hadn't told anybody about all the time-traveling he'd done, about Tralfamadore and so on.
"You must have secrets about the war. Or, not secrets, I guess, but things you don't want to talk about."
"No."
"I'm proud you were a soldier. Do you know that?"
"Good."
"Was it awful?"
"Sometimes." A crazy thought now occurred to Billy. The truth of it startled him. It would make a good epitaph for Billy Pilgrim--and for me, too.
"Would you talk about the war now, if I wanted you to?" said Valencia. In a tiny cavity in her great body she was assembling the materials for a Green Beret.
"It would sound like a dream," said Billy. "Other people's dreams aren't very interesting, usually."
"I heard you tell Father one time about a German firing squad." She was referring to the execution of poor old Edgar Derby.
"Um."
"You had to bury him?"
"Yes."
"Did he see you with your shovels before he was shot?"
"Yes."
"Did he say anything?"
"No."
"Was he scared?"
"They had him doped up. He was sort of glassy-eyed."
"And they pinned a target to him?"
"A piece of paper," said Billy. He got out of bed, said, "Excuse me," went into the darkness of the bathroom to take a leak. He groped for the light, realized as he felt the rough walls that he had traveled back to 1944, to the prison hospital again.

(lovingly excerpted from Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

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This epitaph is intended ironically, don't you think?

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By the way, if you love Slaughterhouse-Five in particular or Kurt Vonnegut in general, you'll feel better about life in a post-Vonnegut world when you discover the books of Ron Currie, Jr. He may not be Vonnegut's heir apparent, but who is? Besides, Vonnegut was no king. Seriously, give Currie a shot.

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While you're here, take a few seconds. Poke around. See what you see. Maybe post a comment. Yes, "hi" would be nice. Thanks for stopping by. Now off you go.

9 comments:

  1. Aww. No comments! This is a pretty well-done blog, at least visually, though I can't say I've been around long enough to see if I can say the same of the writing. Hi!

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  2. "Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts" is a line from a wonderful song by the uK band Catatonia

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  3. Thank you for this! I googled it for exactly the reasons you listed :) i actually went to UChicago and we used to drink at The Cove where Vonnegut loved to go...but I haven't read him yet. Unforgivable, I know. but now that i've read that excerpt, I think it was the tip I needed to send me tumbling down and I'm going to pick up the book this weekend. so, thank you!

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  4. My pleasure, Kate. Thanks for the note, and enjoy the book. I'd love to hear what you think of it.

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  5. I found your blog out of curiosity after reading the epitaph in Slaughterhouse-Five. It would be great if you could post something about the songs, essays or "somewhere else" where you've seen the phrase. Thanks! Oh, and "hi" :)

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  6. Frist, nice blog site you have here. i saw the qoute at the end of a documentary on a chalk board and it struck my intrest. the movie is called objectified and explains the hows and whys of industrial design, really enjoyed the flick.

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  7. hi;) thanks for telling me via internet where this quote came from. saw it in a doc and knew that i knew it and it had struck me profoundly when i had first encountered it. of course it was Vonnegut. hes my shit. ok!!

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