Monday, September 04, 2006

Book Review: Kurt Vonnegut "Man Without a Country"

For as long as I can remember, I've been a serial monogamist when it comes to authors, and Kurt Vonnegut was one of my first "favorite authors." I discovered him in, I believe, the eighth grade, and over the next five years I read probably 85% of what he had written to that point. (It took me a while to find a copy of Happy Birthday, Wanda June.) Since then, I've bought his new releases in hardcover as soon as they came out.

I recently read his latest, Man Without a Country. This, of course, isn't fiction. KV doesn't write fiction anymore. But this isn't fact, either. It's opinions, personal philosophy, politics, and old age.

Yes, old age. More and more, KV is starting to sound like an old fogey. But, of course, he is an old fogey--he was 82 when he wrote this--and he readily admits it...both his age and his fogey-ness. But, perhaps more than before, his age shows through his words. Although he stealthily avoided the phrase "kids these days" throughout the entire book, that implication hangs over every word.

Of course, to KV, "kids these days" applies not only to rebelling teenagers, but also to the likes of W and his sidekick Dick, to baby boomers, to Vietnam vets, pretty much to everyone.

KV touches on many topics. He gives a brief lesson in good humor, tells us the most important works in American literature ("Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and de Tocqueville's Democracy in America), tells us what war is really all about, and gives a decent discussion of creative writing, complete with blackboard examples (although I, as a copy editor, question some of grammatical viewpoints, to wit: "Do not use semicolons. . . . All they do is show you've been to college.")

Does this sound familiar? Sounds like a blog, doesn't it? Man Without a Country is the closest thing to a blog that this self-proclaimed Luddite will ever write. For anyone who ever wished that Vonnegut would start a blog, he has. It's this book. Fans of blogs will enjoy this book, as will secular humanists, democrats, pacifists, musicians, artists, Tralfamadorians, writers, Luddites, auto dealers, comedians, and senior citizens. Who wouldn't enjoy this book? This list is short, and it starts like this: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh . . .

4 comments:

Jer said...

Enjoyed it, Andy. Funny, I read a review somewhere else that used the phrase "self-described Luddite." Must be a common descriptor of Vonnegut.

Nancie said...

I enjoyed the review... but it makes me sad when I think of all my Vonnegut favorites. I'll trust you. I won't buy this.

PS Glad to see you blogging!

Andyman said...

Jer,
I'm not surprised that "self-described Luddite" has made an appearance already. KV makes a point out of it. "Chapter" 6 begins thus:
"I have been called a Luddite.
I welcome it."
Then he goes on to describe what a Luddite is.

David said...

I liked your review more than I think I'd like KV's book.

Welcome to the blogosphere.