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Any Vonnegut fan will appreciate this satisfying, if uneven, collection of mostly auto-biographical essays. Now past 80, Vonnegut seems to have entered the "curmudgeon" phase of life (or perhaps he always was in that phase), but his observations are still amusing, cutting and mostly insightful. His description of how he still prepares his texts using the "primitive" method of typing, editing, and then having the final manuscript prepared by a professional typist (possible the last such member of that profession in North America), is a gem! And its nice to know he and "Kilgore Trout" are still speaking. Great narration, too. Norman Dietz clearly studied and captured Vonnegut's voice. Shortly after listening to this book I heard an interview on NPR with Vonnegut. His voice was weak and halting. I was shocked at how rapidly he had declined since recording this book last year . . . then I remembered that Dietz, not Vonnegut, had narrated the book. That's how closely Dietz was able to copy Vonnegut's accent and style.
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As long as there is a lower class. I am in it.
As long as there is a criminal element, I'm of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene Debs, Quoted in Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
We use humor to dull the pain. We use drugs too, but humor often costs less and last longer. I think one of the reasons I've been so drawn to Vonnegut the last couple weeks is our recent election. Vonnegut almost seems to be a Rosetta Stone for our times. He wrote this, his last book, in 2005. The subtitle of the book was "A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush's America". It is amazing to think that Bush's America seems so tame compared to what is coming 11 years later.
Vonnegut, when I was young as impressionable made me unafraid to call myself a humanist (in my religious milieu a humanist is a dirty word... like socialist and feminist). His voice is often the voice I hear in response to news columns that are dumb, politicians that are corrupt, or corporations that seem unrepentant about their growing bottom line.
Like Mark Twain, Vonnegut appeals to the young and the sweaty masses while also gently ribbing them. Hell, in that way Vonnegut and Twain were a bit like Jesus. I wonder what Vonnegut would think about that comparison? I wonder what Jesus would have thought. Perhaps, it is early, but maybe a kid born in the last couple years will do for Vonnegut what Paul did for Jesus. Maybe in 200+ years there will be a Church where the Blues gets played and on certain Sundays people take turns reading from 'A Man Without a Country" and talking about the time when Vonnegut emerged from that tomb in Dresden.
F#%k and Amen.
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