Sunday, April 22, 2007

Vonnegut and Frankl

In response to my asking what attracted a good amount of attention to The Lextopia in the entry titled, "Random Notes and Yay for Writing Workshops", Chuckling wrote:

Since you asked, I did a google search on Frankl and Vonnegut and got your site high on the list.

First off, cool. I am pretty high up there on Google with a search for "Frankl" and "Vonnegut." Ninth, to be exact. Thank you for bringing that to my awareness. I regret that I couldn't provide any good insight into the topic at hand, though:

I picked up Man's Search for Meaning yesterday and read it pretty much straight through. I've read most everything by Vonnegut, but couldn't remember if he had written about Frankl. I'm thinking that he did, using him as an example of someone who had similar, albeit worse, experiences and came to opposite conclusions. Maybe not. The search shows I'm far from the only one to connect the two philosophically.

I have only read Man's Search for Meaning from Frankl's writing and the beginning of Galapagos for Vonnegut.

After scanning through the Wikipedia entries of Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five (sidenote: entertained by the fact that this book has elements of time unstuckness while I've been posting about The Time Traveler's Wife), though, I didn't pick up on anything contrary to Frankl's logotherapy. In fact, barring Wikipedia's level of possible accuracy, I would say that Vonnegut would even agree Frankl's main theories, just on a more humanistic and secular viewpoint.

Being something of an agnostic, myself, I'm very much a supporter of Frankl's logotherapy, as it provides meaning without the need to refer to a premiuse that may or may not exist.

You've struck my curiousity, though. Without spoiling any of Vonnegut's novels, is it possible for you to expand on your claim of "opposite conclusions"? Not trying to be negative, start an argument or anything of the sort. Not really knowing enough about either of these two fellows, I simply want to know more.

Thank you.


Chuckling said...

Well, in short, Frankl's big thing is that life has meaning and Vonnegut's is that it doesn't. But yea, they have a very humanistic viewpoint in common. And maybe Frankl believed in life's meaning a little less than one might think. I'm not actually sure he ever said that life had meaning, only that it helped a person to believe so. I don't think Vonnegut would disagree with that.

It surprises me that everyone hasn't read Vonnegut. He was very popular when I was in college and he is so talented and easy to read and prescient about so much that I wouldn't have thought he'd go out of style so fast. Oh well.

You seem to be into both science fiction and literature. I'd think you'd find him interesting. Many of his books are futuristic, if not actual science fiction, and I think they all have a science fiction element or two.

What little I've read of people writing about his death, it seems a commonality is that they haven't read anything except Slaughterhouse five and maybe Galapagos. I don't get why Galapagos would be so popular. It was considered a pretty minor work at the time and when last I read it I thought it didn't hold up well. Who knows what I'll think next time.

Most people would consider God Bless you Mr. Rosewater, Mother Night, Slaughterhouse five, and Breakfast of Champions to be the heart of the canon. You might find Player Piano and Sirens of Titan interesting as examples of 50's science fiction. In many ways they haven't aged well, but they're still good for a few laughs. From his later work, a lot of people like Jailbird and not much else. Personally, I like Slapstick a lot, and Bluebeard and Hocus Pocus as well. He almost knew when to quit, but Timequake was one novel too far. If I had to pick just one, I'd go with Breakfast of Champions.

Too much info?

Jeremy Roby said...

My faves are cat's cradle and hocus pocus. A close runner-up is mother night. Galapagos is very cool, but I had a hard time remembering anything about it after I read it. The others have pretty clear messages, or at least, leave stronger impressions on the reader.

The_Lex said...

No, no, no. Perfect amount of information.

Frankly, I'll admit that the covers I saw of Vonnegut's books turned me off when I was in high school. Shows you how much marketing and a book cover can play into this type of thing.

Since 10 years ago or so, though, I have wanted to read him, mainly because I know a lot of people who read him. His appearance on the Daily Show many months ago inspired me to read him, too. I'm mainly only reading Galapagos because that's what we had in the house, and my fiancee had bought for something like $4 some time ago. Slaughterhouse Five and his other books certainly sound interesting, even though I do enjoy Galapagos on some level I don't certainly understand (despite kind of forgetting who's who and so forth).

As for Frankl and Vonnegut, not knowing Vonnegut's philosophy too well, I'd bet that, on some level of principle, they agree. My guess is that they have a lot of interesting details to compare and contrast (Religion, nationality, experiences in WWII, etc. etc.). Vonnegut didn't necessarily seem to have a sense of hope in his old age, even though I haven't kept up with Frankl's elder days, either.

To tell the truth, I probably don't know enough information to really make any kind of conclusion. I would love to hear more on the topic, if you find more information and are so inclined to share.