September 19, 2005

THANK GOODNESS WE KILLED THAT DREAM:

Kurt Vonnegut's new collection offers essays that can make you laugh--and cry: a review of A Man Without a Country By Kurt Vonnegut (Ron Silverman, September 11, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

Much of what's here first appeared in various formats (essays, dialogue, even a short note to readers about his thoughts at Christmas 2004) in the left-leaning Chicago magazine In These Times, and Vonnegut sometimes seems to be preaching to the liberal choir.

He's direct in saying what he thinks about the president and his pals ("George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, . . . plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, . . . the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences"), Americans' dependence on oil ("We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial"), the war in Iraq, ("our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on"), the damage we've done to the environment ("we . . . have now all but destroyed this once salubrious planet as a life-support system"), and the future of our country ("there is not a chance in hell" it can become "the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of").


Mr. Vonnegut is an elderly man and has suffered from PTSD for sixty years now, so he can perhaps be excused such inanities, but it's kind of sad that references to Republicans as "white supremacists" is indeed straight from the Left's hymnal these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2005 5:33 PM
Comments

So what exactly does the mean little man like? (Besides himself.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 19, 2005 5:49 PM

People who buy the same novel thirty times under different titles?

Posted by: oj at September 19, 2005 5:55 PM

George W. Bush has indeed gathered around him upper-crust C-students, which is entirely unsurprising, since both industry and government are run by C-students.
A-students tend to go into the arts & sciences, B-students become journalists, C-students find themselves in management, and D-students end up teaching kids in public schools.

"We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial"

Quite true, as has been pointed out very often at this very forum.

"[T]here is not a chance [that we'll become] the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of"

Except, of course, we have.

Kurt Vonnegut was born at the end of '22.
His generation was profoundly racist, flirted with Communism, and begat the generation of Lost Boys, the perpetually adolescent Boomers.

The first two have been more or less taken care of, and the last is waning in influence.

Further, the top 90% of American households, including many "poverty stricken" ones, now live better than the bottom 50% used to in his heyday.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2005 6:46 PM

Well, that thing about fossil fuels is completely wrong.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 19, 2005 7:14 PM

Michael Herdegen:

There's a simple explanation: Mr. Vonnegut has come unstuck in time. Poo-tee-weet.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 19, 2005 7:31 PM

I suppose he prefers Nancy Pelosi, who thinks the Supreme Court is divine; or Patty Murray, who thinks Osama bin Laden is a social revolutionary; or George Galloway, who thinks Zarqawi is Jesus returned.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 19, 2005 9:09 PM

He wrote one very good short story about a computer that writes love poems ("EPICAC"), but the rest of his writing just plain out leaves me cold. I couldn't finish Slaughterhouse Five in a month of 7th-period study halls. Algebra was actually more engaging, and had a better plot.

Posted by: Mike Morley at September 19, 2005 9:45 PM

"references to Republicans as 'white supremacists' is indeed straight from the Left's hymnal these days"

Then find me another example.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 20, 2005 12:20 AM

Mr. Perlstein -

You must be joking. The NYT urged yesterday that John Roberts be voted down, for all the reasons in the hymnal (and for no other reason than the hymnal).

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 20, 2005 12:24 AM

Not reading your own paper anymore, Rick? Can't say we blame you.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 20, 2005 1:20 AM

Mike Morley:

I too had to read it in high school. I thought it was a somewhat amusing book, but still horribly overrated and not even close to being a classic of American literature. I think it must be considered a great book only because it appealed to literary intellectuals who were World War II veterans and had consequently been turned into pacifists.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 3:33 AM

OJ:

Is it literally true that Vonnegut still suffers from PTSD? Assuming it is, you have to wonder how long it can continue to excuse -- 60 years after the war ended -- lunacy like this comment made to In These Times:

What has allowed so many PPs [psychopathic personalities] to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply canít. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybodyís telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! F*** habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 4:02 AM

Rick:

Here are a few:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/obligatory_nazi_reference/

Note, in particular, Harold Meyerson's comparison of George W. Bush to Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Klan, in the Washington Post:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/2003/04/does_anybody_edit_the_post.html

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 7:15 AM

Matt:

Isn't his career premised on his PTSD?

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 7:25 AM

Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybodyís telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

Sounds like my kind of leader - where do I send a campaign contribution?

... and so it goes...

Posted by: Shelton at September 20, 2005 10:20 AM

Rather a pretentious overbearing twit, isn't he?

Posted by: Mikey at September 20, 2005 12:30 PM

Do you not know what "quotation marks" "are"? I'm looking for references to Republicans as "white supremecists."

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 20, 2005 1:15 PM

Right OJ - there is a big difference in calling rebuplicans racists and bigots and KKK members and in calling them "white supremecists" - how dare you try to make such spurious rhetorical associations.

Posted by: Shelton at September 20, 2005 1:28 PM

Shelton:

And Nazis.

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 1:31 PM

Rick:

When you guys call us Nazis are you under the impression that it's a critique of our monetary policy? or calling us Klansmen refers to how we dress?

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 1:43 PM

OJ:

I always just took it as an extreme dislike of war combined with two other things: probable use of recreational drugs and hostile feelings towards America. For example, in Slaughterhouse Five he has a war character say that every culture savors its rags-to-riches stories, except for America's. This guy must have been dropping acid when he wrote that.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 3:03 PM

Mr. Perlstein:

Remember Howard Dean and the "white Christian party"?

He didn't say supremacist, but then again, he didn't have to. Besides, no one talks like that these days - that is a 1950s and 1960s word.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 20, 2005 11:03 PM
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