They say that many personality traits and actions are inherited from parents. This thought came to me when I sat home last Saturday night. Tired of being brainwashed by late-night television, I opened an old acidified edition of Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House. Instead of hitting the usual parties, I remained warm and cozy in my humble little bed. This unusual action might be attributed to my parents' influence. Every night they read for hours in their bed, their minds being whisked away by the horrors of Stephen King and the suspense of John Grisham. Unlike television, the written word is an outlet for the imagination. Instead of viewing a landscape on a small screen, one's mind with the help of the author's words, can imagine its own scenic landscape.
This nightly reading, a sign of adulthood, or simply just a passing phase, is an excellent way for my mind to escape from the woes of everyday life. Kurt Vonnegut Jr., my most recent reading interest, has a unique and distinguished writing ability. His stories appear too simple and endlessly sporadic for others, yet I have been interested and excited with every tale. My first knowledge of Vonnegut came from my senior English class. We had finished reading other contemporary writers when our teacher let us keep the book which contained a collection of contemporary novels. The book sat under my bed until a group from my English class presented Slaughter House Five. I was very intrigued with their descriptions of Vonnegut's writing style. That night I cracked open the novel and began to read. Three evenings later, I was finished with Slaughter House Five. My mind, stretched to new ideas and dimensions by his writing, was hungry for more.
Vonnegut's style is eclectic. At times, his stories tend to be a collection of random thoughts. My good friend Abel agreed as he handed me Vonnegut's short stories entitled Welcome to the Monkey House. Abel's book, yellow from years of sunlight, was missing the cover and first few pages, yet on the final page of the foreword Vonnegut explains his writing style in a fantastic metaphor.
"Perhaps it would be helpful for the reader to imagine me as the White Rock girl, kneeling on a boulder in a nightgown, either looking for minnows or adoring her own reflection."
In those few words, Vonnegut manages to capture the essence of his writing ability. Every story in Monkey House differs in plot and characters, yet they seem to bear down on one common theme C the importance of life. Through the use of unsuccessful or triumphant protagonists, Vonnegut is able to add a positive image into the collage of life. After reading his stories, my mind is open to a new outlook on human existence.
Is this addiction to reading a mere phase, or is it inherited? I feel it is neither. Reading is a step in maturing. At this time, Vonnegut is the key which unlocks my imagination. I am certain my reading preference will change in time, as does everything. When I finish with Vonnegut, his stories and ideas will remain embedded in my mind
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.