Saturday, April 14, 2007

Quite a Man Indeed
"Man Without a Country"
by Kurt Vonnegut

I started reading this book the day Kurt Vonnegut passed away. I didn't know yet, of course, and it's probably too soon to write that so abrasively, but I don't think he would mind. I was reading so I would be up to speed when I would see him live in a couple of months at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I was reading his latest, his last finished book, because I was interested in what he had to say.

A Man Without a Country is a fantastic essay about the everything from the sad state of the world to how to write well to how to just enjoy life (he uses the phrase, quite apropos, it probably stuck out at me because of the timing, "If I should die - God forbid -"). It's full of wit and wisdom and humor and the ultimate insight into comedy: it's not comedy, it's tragedy, but it's an escape from tragedy. I couldn't agree with him more. The funniest situations, the best comical stories, are the ones that teeter on the edge of disaster. They're also the most insightful.

That's what makes Kurt Vonnegut, and this book, so indispensable. It's so honest and witty that nearly every phrase bears repeating. Every idea he presents is solid. And, for the most part, I agree. I can see why he is a man without a country. It's his honesty, his plainness, that makes him so easy to read. You don't read his books, you are his books, you become his books, you interact with everything. It's like talking to the man himself. If he were to start a religion, I'd be hard-pressed not to ascribe. Oh wait, he did. Bokonon.

So it goes.

And so A Man Without a Country goes. It goes where many have been, where many will get to, but it goes there at its own pace, in its own way. Read it. That's all I can say. It's entertaining, it's honest, but most of all, it is the pleading of a man that can see the future. Or, maybe, as he says of Einstein and Shakespeare and the like, maybe he's just a huge plagiarist and writes down what the future tells him.

Mr. Vonnegut, you will be sorely missed.

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