As of today I have just a few more reasons to love Kurt Vonnegut. I listened to A Man Without a Country today, which is a peculiar little book that Vonnegut wrote only two years ago. Though Vonnegut is generally known for his fiction (Slaughterhouse 5 in particular) Country is a short work of non-fiction in which the author basically tells us his views on life. In a meandering and roundabout way he talks about art, politics, love, kindness, death and how to piss of your parents. It’s a lot like listening to a very wise and very articulate grandfather give you advice for a morning, except in this case your grandfather is one of the greatest novelists of the modern era. As I was listening I decided that there are now a few more reasons for me to love Vonnegut. Here they are:
1. He’s funny…really funny. And not in a stupid way like an Adam Sandler movie, but in a dark, witty, and even hopeful way. I laughed an awful lot this morning.
2. He has no use for modern life or technology. Okay, I know that this sounds a little hypocritical coming from a guy who’s blogging on a laptop while watching a TV show on DVD and not looking forward to going to work at his Oil and Gas Industry job tomorrow. I’m not quite the Luddite that Vonnegut is, but I also seriously question the need and importance of the society we’ve designed in North America in particular. Vonnegut rags pretty hard on our current dependence on fossil-fuels and he’s right about a lot of it. The fact of the matter is that most people do indeed need their cars, but that’s because we’ve designed cities and towns and a society in general that is completely unconscious about how unnecessarily large the distances involved in our everyday lives really are. Don’t think so? Check out the general nature of life in more densely populated industrialized nations where people walk and take transit more than anything else.
3. Like me Vonnegut sees music as the only necessary proof for the existence of God.
4. Even though he’s a secular humanist with no belief in heaven or hell or judgment of any kind, Vonnegut still believes that it is important to be good to each other. I’ve never understood how somebody with that particular metaphysical outlook can come to that particular ethical conclusion, but I’m sure glad he did. The world is full enough of people who don’t care about anything other than themselves. One more person who believes in the importance of acts of self-sacrifice, grace, peace and love is just fine with me. To be honest it strikes me that Vonnegut has grasped the Gospel more firmly than a lot of Christians I’ve known and read (and been some days too, I’m ashamed to say).
5. Finally the great Mr. Vonnegut knows how to write. Every sentence and word is chosen and arranged with care and attention. Whether I agreed with everything that he wrote or not, reading this book was a pleasure from start to finish. A great many writers in the world today would do well to take a lesson from this master of the written word (you’re damn right I’m looking at you Dan Brown!).
All of this to say that you should go read A Man Without a Country for yourself. And anything else that Vonnegut has ever written for that matter.
Update: Though I did not know it at the time of this post, the great Kurt Vonnegut passed away yesterday, apparently due to complications from a head injury. May his name be for a blessing.