Monday, February 19, 2007

Buy the Book, Kid: A Man Without a Country

Kurt Vonnegut, literary scion of Mark Twain, as the book jackets like to say, had once promised to never write another book, but sullied his word in 2005 with the publication of his satiric collection of musings called A Man Without a Country. Steering clear of the professional approach to book reviews -- those aspiring to Lionel Trilling, et. al., from which you will tell you that reading this book is “like sitting down on the couch for a long chat with an old friend” – I will first say/brag that I read this book in just one sitting and I am by no means a fast reader.

If you have ever read anything by Vonnegut then I see no need and much futility in attempting to describe his style, which has not waned in satirical bite or humor. A Man Without a Country is neither a magnum opus, nor a manifesto for our country’s future (please refer to our manifesto post), but a grouping of short essays, silk screenings and anecdotes (about such topics as story-telling, the Bush administration, and Humanism) linked by the persona of their author, a man who has survived his Winter years and still has a lot on his mind.

To the manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, which have failed to kill him: “I am now eighty-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.”

On the difference between Vietnam and the Iraq War: “[Vietnam] only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.”

To a degree, these quotes may form a portrait in your mind of a crotchety old fart, banging away at his outdated typewriter in disgust. And to a degree, that’s exactly what this book amounts to, except that this old fart is still funny as hell and it wouldn’t hurt us youngsters to sit down “on the couch for a long chat with an old [fart]”. You know what, I’ll just let Vonnegut end this for me:

“Yes, this planet is in a terrible mess. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any ‘Good Old Days,’ there have just been days. And as I sy to my grandchildren, ‘Don’t look at me. I just got here’.”

As Vonnegut’s contemporary, Henny Youngman, would say, “Buy the book, Kid.”

Here are some other blogs about A Man Without a Country, all of which are better than mine.


Rick Librarian's

A Common Reader's


Joseph Gallo said...

Dear Capetown-D,

Just wanted to say thanks for posting a link to my blogsite, Drachenthrax, with regard to our mutual interest and admiration for Mr. Vonnegut.

I'm savoring the very last chapter or so of AMWAC and don't want for it to end. I enjoyed your descriptions and admonitions to the youngsters to read and investigate further one of our true national treasures in Mr. Vonnegut.

He should be required reading in school. A greater champion of subtext, irony, innuendo, and humor is difficult to find. If one can say ouch while smiling or laughing, that is a good sign you've found someone who fits that tall bill.

My next aches from nodding in agreement and from twisting it side to side with fatalistic concurrence. Yet, somehow, I remain an optimist against my better judgement.

Best of luck to you and I am bookmarking your conglomerated dissentators site. Good stuff all, gentlemen. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an explanation.