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Book 15: A Man Without a Country

January 6, 2010

“Now then, I have some good news for you and some bad news. The bad news is that the Martians have landed in New York City and are staying at the Waldorf Astoria. The good news is that they only eat homeless men, women, and children of all colors, and they pee gasoline.”

A Man Without a Country is a collection of short essay by Kurt Vonnegut.  It turned out to be his last book and I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not a lot to write home about.  There is no real coherence to the essays except for a steadfast hate for G.W. Bush and a growing pessimism in relation to humanity.  I think the pessimistic view is readily expressed by a increasingly crotchety old man, but he also shows hints of awe when faced with acts of life in all its glory.

Vonnegut has always been very quotable because of his half dark, half blatantly traditional sense of humor.  He can tell the one liners of the Catskills and follow them up with a political diatribe littered with rich dark and sneaky grin without any awkward transition.  He is smart, has seen it all, and I respect pretty much anything the guy says.  I have been reading Vonnegut since I started seriously reading and always pick up his (and a few select others) books when I feel the need to read comfortably.

In the book, his critiques of the last administration were the late night political fodder of the day, with Bush Dick and Colon jokes.  This combined with the dependency on oil and Iraq war arguments makes a significant portion of the book a bit worthless.

But there is some meat to the essays, mainly in the memories of his early uses of humor and the scholars, artists, friends, and family that have touched his life.  The biggest thing to take away from the book, hidden by overly used Bush hating, is his ability to be genuinely happy with so much and so genuinely upset with everything else.

He is an old man in his last years getting out his lasts thoughts on how humor is dead for him because the world is too horrible.  He is saddened by the destruction of the environment and the wild spread of greed.  He wants the world to be better and he is telling you why.  He makes sure you come out of the book knowing the names of more than a few who gave more than they took from humanity and life at large.

Ignaz Semmelweis is a good example.

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