Kurt Vonnegut Totally Conceptualized “Cars” // The Mind of a Fiction Junkie

TODAY’S POST COMES TO YOU IN TWO PARTS! Both are things I want to share, but neither are things that I can stretch into a full post (or things that you would WANT me to stretch into a full post, even if I could), so anyway, LET’S GO.

PART ONE: Kurt Vonnegut Totally Conceptualized “Cars”

As of this weekend I have nearly knocked off one of my summer reading goals: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I could potentially finish it today and write a review of it, but it’s another one of those books where a review would be just sort of… what’s the point? It’s really good. If you like that sort of thing. A lot of people probably don’t.

But here’s what’s REALLY important. As many of you are probably aware, a movie by the name of “Cars 2” is coming out this summer.

No one really knows why “Cars 2” is coming out this summer, or any summer, as nobody particularly liked “Cars” all that much. I think it has something to do with selling merchandise to boys between the ages of 3 and 10, so… I guess that’s fine.

Anyway, if you’re like me, if/when you saw “Cars” you thought it was okay, kind of cute, but mostly it WEIRDED YOU THE FUCK OUT. I mean, they were PEOPLE, but they were CARS. They ATE GAS, and HAD JOBS, and could be ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER, and just… gah! It was weird! Where does such a weird idea even come from?

Yesterday I came upon the following section of Breakfast of Champions:

“The words in the book, incidentally, were about life on a dying planet named Lingo-Three, whose inhabitants resembled American automobiles. They had wheels. They were powered by internal combustion engines. They ate fossil fuels. They weren’t manufactured, though. They reproduced. They laid eggs containing baby automobiles, and the babies matured in pools of oil drained from adult crankcases.

[…] The automobile creatures hoped to borrow some oxygen, and to have the visitors carry at least one of their eggs to another planet, where it might hatch, where an automobile civilization could begin again.”

AUTOMOBILE CIVILIZATION?? WHO THINKS OF THAT?? In BoC, Vonnegut via Kilgore Trout tells the story to say that we’re destroying the planet and any attempts to save it at this point would be futile.

In “Cars,” the cars are just car-people FOR THE SAKE OF BEING CAR-PEOPLE. And in case you were wondering how they reproduce, our dear friend Kurt offers a totally logical explanation.

So, okay, it is not necessarily likely that whoever-it-was from Pixar was reading Breakfast of Champions one day and decided that this little tale was a brilliant concept for an animated film where a conceited Owen Wilson would meet some new friends and learn a lesson about respecting others. But it seems at the LEAST, ragingly coincidental.

Now that I’ve shared that little discovery with you, on to

PART TWO: The Mind of a Fiction Junkie

Last week at work we got new lights for the elevator buttons. I didn’t know that this was the case, and when I stepped into the elevator on Wednesday morning, the buttons appeared to be the same white plastic they always were. When you press the buttons, they glow white as well. They have done so for the past 3 and 1/2 years I have worked there.

Then I pressed the “3” button (yeah, I take the elevator to the third floor when I’m feeling lazy, which is most of the time), and the button shone an extremely vibrant red.

Some history about this elevator: It’s pretty sketchy. I mean, it’s in a building as old as the American Civil War, on a college campus OLDER THAN AMERICA. I imagine that the elevator is younger than both America and the American Civil War, but who knows when they added it in? It breaks a lot. Nobody in the building goes in there without a cell phone, in case they get stuck.

So that was my first thought staring at that bright, unexpectedly red light: maybe the elevator is stuck.

But no, it seemed to be moving fine. So my brain made the logical step to another possibility: THE ELEVATOR WAS TAKING ME TO AN ALTERNATE DIMENSION.

I can tell you in all seriousness that for at least one second, I KNEW this to be true. With that red light glaring at me, I KNEW that when the elevator doors opened, the world was not going to be the same one that I had left on the first floor. Maybe it would be small differences–same office, but everyone’s desks would be all changed around, or their hair colors different, or their names pronounced slightly differently. Maybe I would suddenly work at a different university. Or maybe the doors would open to something stranger than a new office or a new school that I couldn’t predict (but probably it would involve Hell. Or outer space.)

The elevator came to the third floor. The red light when out. The doors opened. It was my office, and everything was as it should be. And I realized, of course I hadn’t acutally thought that any of that other stuff was going to happen. I was just tired from the drive, and it was amazing how such a small difference like a light changing color could throw you off, etc.

When I explained the ordeal to a lady in my office (she likes to read too, I should mention. She understood completely) her first comment was, “Ooh! Or maybe, when the doors opened, you’d find out it was LAST WEDNESDAY.” I agreed that this was definitely a possibility.

I guess the whole episode just made me wonder if fiction has caused my brain to work in a certain way. I suppose I never actually thought (except for maybe that one second…) that anything strange or supernatural was going on with the elevator. But it also never occurred to me to simply think, “Oh, they must have gotten new lights for the buttons,” which I suppose a more normal person would have realized right away.

Personally, I’m glad that my mind automatically seeks out more exciting possibilities. And I think that comes from years and years of reading fiction.

I even have an end to this story: after the adventure (in the alternate universe, in last Wednesday, wherever), an unaware co-worker says, “Wanna head out?” and makes his/her way to the elevator, at which point I get a strange look in my eye and say, “Uh… I think I’ll take the stairs.” (LOL)



3 thoughts on “Kurt Vonnegut Totally Conceptualized “Cars” // The Mind of a Fiction Junkie

  1. I have never seen “Cars” nor do I now have a desire to see “Cars”. Sounds creepy.

    After the end of your adventure you would need to wink at the camera and cheesy music and canned laughter would play. At least that’s how it would work in a sitcom and not necessarily “The Twilight Zone” or crazy science-fiction series like that.

    I think us bibliophiles always have strange hypothetical situations in our mind. At least I do.

  2. Cars just look friendly… The vehicles, not the movie. They got those headlight eyes and the grill is like a little mouth and stuff… It’s just too perfect for somebody not to look at it once in a while and say “Dang, that’s a face on my car.”

    Also: I do the “What If” supernatural thing at every opportunity I get. Although in my case, I think it stems somewhat from a desire for something incredible to happen, which is probably in turn influenced by the books I read. Other media definitely has a hand in it too though.

  3. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – I am convinced one day an elevator will break free from the building and just continue onward and outward. And there will be aliens and chocolate.

    ALSO – there is a movie adaptation of Breakfast of Champions. With Bruce Willis. I can’t bring myself to watch it.

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