Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Title:A Man Without A Country
Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut died recently; one of his last books was A Man Without A Country, written when he was 82. A Man Without A Country is a non-fiction book, a rambling rant, peppered with tangents, and Vonnegut's particular humour. To a degree at the core of the book is how much the world has changed in his life time, how America has changed so much that he no longer feels comfortable to be considered an American. To a degree this is a book about the meaning of life, referencing and restating some of the themes that have been included in a variety of his novels over the years - for Vonnegut life was about being good to each other and taking the time to appreciate happiness. To a degree this is a melancholic book, even if it comes with a wry smile, Vonnegut lists people who were smarter than him, who influenced him, who he feels changed the world, and how they gave up on people in the end, and how he gave up on people in the end. To a degree this book is about addiction and destruction, addiction to fossil fuels, and the destructive results that come from such an addiction. This is where a particularly degree of his melancholy comes from, the idea that we are destroying the world, and that that doesn't line up with his idea that we should all be nice to each other. The key works I've read, and which he refers to through Without A Country, are Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle. Slaughterhouse Five refers to his own experiences during war time, a prisoner of war in Dresden when it was firebombed. At the heart of Cat's Cradle was the ideas of Bokonism, a made up religion, which encouraged people to be good to each other. That idea he states throughout this book, the idea of taking a moment and saying "Well, if this isn't nice, I don't know what is". As a book, Without A Country at times feels aimless, there are references to Bush and the state of America, which address the sub-title of the book, though perhaps not enough to justify the sub-title. Regardless this is a short book, a quick read, which reminds us of who Vonnegut was, how he thought, and to a degree how he would like to be remembered.

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