Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
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are always honest with our BuzzFlash readers, and we have to tell you,
we ordered this on a whim. We read a review on Sunday, September 11,
in the Chicago Tribune, and we thought, "Vonnegut is back!
Hop to it. Order the books." Officiallyto be released on September
15th, the Tribune review clearly indicates that Vonnegut, now
82, hasn't lost any of his sardonic or wry caustic humor.
Many of these writings first appeared in the progressive Chicago-based
magazine, "In These Times," over the past few years.
Here is what the Tribune reviewer had to say about "A Man Without
He's direct in saying what he thinks about the president and his pals
("George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students
who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists,
. . . plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, . . . the
medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences"),
Americans' dependence on oil ("We are all addicts of fossil fuels
in a state of denial"), the war in Iraq, ("our leaders are
now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're
hooked on"), the damage we've done to the environment ("we
. . . have now all but destroyed this once salubrious planet as a life-support
system"), and the future of our country ("there is not a chance
in hell" it can become "the humane and reasonable America so
many members of my generation used to dream of").
Because Americans now present themselves to the world as "proud,
grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers," because "our unelected
leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply
because of their religion and race," and because we have "dehumanized
our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because
of their low social class," Vonnegut calls himself "a man without
a country"--except, he says, for librarians (who have "staunchly
resisted" censors and government snoops seeking library records),
and (not surprisingly) In These Times magazine.
But in fact, there are other sources of illumination in Vonnegut's
mostly dark world. He likes big families ("A few Americans, but very few,
still have extended families. The Navahos. The Kennedys."), music
("It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would
be without it."), the arts generally ("They are a very human
way of making life more bearable" and "a way to make your soul
grow."), the clerk who sells him stamps at his post office near
the United Nations ("Sometimes her hair will be all frizzy").
Sometimes she will have ironed it flat. One day she was wearing black
lipstick. This is all so exciting and so generous of her, just to cheer
us all up, people from all over the world."), and making people
Those BuzzFlash readers who are Vonnegut fans know that he mixes bafflement
with the human condition, with humor and a faint hope of decency --
that even if the human spirit can't always triumph, it should be allowed
The Tribune reviewer notes, "But there is still humor in Vonnegut's
writing, as well as tenderness (see the piece about extended families,
and the one about his being a Luddite) and even hope, implicit in a simple
admonishment to everyone: 'Be honorable.'"
"Be honorable," not a bad motto to live by, Kurt Vonnegut,
not a bad motto at all.