It’s taken me a while to decide how to respond, what to say and what to leave out, how to summarize, and what to quote. After days of thinking, all I’ve come up with is this: It is what it is. Not the book — the book is actually a lot more than what it is — but life, the hand we’ve been dealt, eating poisonous mushrooms, and things of that sort. They are what they are. That’s the big (and so-worth-reading) take away. Examples, chosen almost at random from my obsessive high-lighting:
“A human without a disease is like a ship without a rudder” (46).
“Maybe I just had to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with being scared out of my mind, and to let it go past like it wasn’t about me” (91).
“I could pass off the things that happened to me when I was crazy as just a bunch of craziness, but the problem is, when I’m trying my best to tell the truth to myself, I’m not sure I didn’t bargain God down from nuclear cataclysm to a relatively mild earthquake and stop my father from killing himself. I’m glad I got to meet and talk to Dostoyevsky, van Gogh, Beethoven, Freud, and Abraham Lincoln and continue to count them as good friends” (124).
“…at a conference on ADHD, a colleague said that Huck Finn had ADHD and would be treated today and have a better life. I said that the best that treatment could achieve would be to make him into a second-rate Becky Thatcher, and we should worry, at least a little, about that” (149).
Rather than making this an entire response about it being whatever it is, let’s talk about baseball.
Baseball and softball are recurring themes and metaphors in Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So. Deprived of little league as a child due to undiscovered myopia, Vonnegut plays some serious softball as an adult. Like, annual 27-inning games serious. Through years of playing, he feels himself age. Through the nature of the game, he can see what happens when individual performance and team synergy converge or when they don’t. In the context of a softball game, the woman who will be his wife lays down the law for what seem to be her incredibly endearing relationship boundaries. He recounts a dream wherein he was nude with a baseball glove in junior high surrounded by clothed kids without gloves.
Personal bias: I love baseball. Love it. And here’s where I knew that he loves it for the reasons I love it:
“They hit better, ran faster, and made fewer errors, but baseball is a funny game and we had our wonderful moments and days that were all the more tasty because they expected to win and got so pissed when they didn’t (48).”
He writes of the “baseball gods,” because for all the stats and training and batting practice and scouting and right-hander/left-hander matchups and strategic pinch hitters, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. And whatever the baseball gods decide will be. Like lots of other things in life, baseball is what it is. There’s only so much you can plan for the random crap that will happen in any hyper-organized system. Make all the rules you want, but eventually something you didn’t expect will happen. “Baseball was something to count on in this crazy world” (97), because you can always count on that random, surprising, beautiful, frustrating, unforeseeable, unplanned, and sometimes fantastic crap. If you’re anything like me (and I’m guessing we all have this in common), your life has those moments you just could not have seen coming, those moments that you could not have made more ridiculous or amazing had you made them up, those perfect baseball moments — always ridiculous and always amazing depending only on which team you’re on.
I could write hundreds of things right now that include phrases like “home run,” “strike out,” “fearless diving catch,” “underdog,” “upset,” and the like. The absolute worst thing I could say right now is that “sometimes life throws you a curveball.” Screw that. I’m just trying not to hit into a double play.