Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The other thing about Vonnegut that resonates with me, is that we ended up working for the same company [we’re both Scorpio’s as well] at one point in our respective careers. Vonnegut’s father grew up working in the arts and strongly advocated Kurt getting a degree that was a little more substantial. At one point he worked in public relations for one of the largest corporate conglomerates in the world... and I laugh at how horrible the fit probably was. I see that as a great work of satire in and of itself.
This brief interlude gives you an idea on where my headspace is coming from as I review this work, “A Man Without a Country”. The novel was published in 2005 when Vonnegut was 82 years old, and is a “collection of articles written over the last 5 years” since his previous published work, “God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian,” published in 1999. Less than two years after “A Man Without a Country” was published, Vonnegut (God Bless him – ‘a joke, since Vonnegut was deeply Unreligious) passed at the ripe age of 84. So it goes.
Now that we have all that background stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the book. “A Man Without a Country” is filled with a bunch of world musings by Vonnegut. Most are the standard “humans killing the planet,” “the United States is hated by all with good reason”, “Politicians are idiots and the system breeds them that way,” etc. All this stuff resonates, and Vonnegut provides us with some great humour... but it’s the same shtick we’ve heard from everyone that has any intelligence whatsoever. However, there are little gems in here that maybe aren’t as common... such as a nice little portrayal of why Vonnegut wouldn’t order envelopes sent to his house (for his manuscripts), but would rather walk to the store and interact with people and the world in general. It’s true that lots of us have lost this – we lose a lot of valuable life by absorbing ourselves in virtual worlds. And as Vonnegut said, we’re supposed to be dancing animals.
The one thing that stands out to me in the old age of Vonnegut, is that he’s given up. He declares that we’re already doomed and there is nothing we can do about it anymore. This may be true... but you don’t start revolutions by telling people they will fail. We probably will, but Gandhi didn’t tell Indians that they should just give up their salt and play by the rules. My intention is not to compare Gandhi to Vonnegut by any means, but I would think that someone on the edge of his life would be more concerned with making a difference than telling people things are hopeless.
That being said, I enjoyed the book for what it was – it had some good satirical points by commenting on what we’ve done to society and the world, but it didn’t suggest ways to improve things or introduce any new concepts. For Vonnegut, I found this book to be a bit “tired”, and that left some sort of negative undertone on the book for me as a whole. That being said, I’m glad I read it and there are things about it that I hope will stick with me as I go about my life until my own... “so it goes”.