If you live in San Francisco, check out Bird and Beckett Books. A great place to buy books and listen to live music.
Remember, before you buy a book from Jeff Bezos consider supporting your local bookstore. You get that warm fuzzy feeling just thinking that you may have kept a local business alive and you may even make some real friends.
When I was a younger man, but decades after the bombing of Dresden, Kurt Vonnegut was an author that people took seriously, but he was never taught in your English class. Too modern. Too rock-an-roll. Far too funny. It was just assumed that everyone read Vonnegut. The language was crisp, often ironic, sometimes funny as hell and always profound. The chapters always short, you could often finish a book in a day.
I finally got around to reading A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. It was a gift from a dear friend and in the end it it made me reread Slaughter House Five and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater; I just needed more Vonnegut. I realized that all Vonnegut’s work is worth rereading. Slaughter House Five should be required reading in high school.
Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.
– Kurt Vonnegut
A Man Without a Country is unlike any of Vonnegut’s books. He wrote it later in life when in his 80s. It is confessional and in many ways but a brief autobiography – a great place to get to know some of the core values that undermine much of Vonnegut’s work. Early on he recommends everyone read what he believes to be the greatest short story in American literature – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. You can download it as a pdf.
Do you think Arabs are dumb? They gave us our numbers. Try doing long division with Roman numerals.
– Kurt Vonnegut
One of the reoccurring themes of Vonnegut’s life of course is World War II and the realization that World War II was fought, like all wars, by children. This is why Slaughter House Five has a subtitle of The Children’s Crusade.
Reading A Man Without a Country, it is interesting to get Vonnegut’s take on drinking and smoking. I never really knew that he smoked two packs of Pall Malls, unfiltered every day. Incredible, that he lived into his 80s. Born in 1924, He was a man of his times. Most everyone in his generation smoked like chimneys at one point or another.
He was a humanist, pacifist, a stealth stoic, an environmentalist who believed strongly in the notion of community. One of his guiding moral principals was kindness.
And when he reflects back on America he signals out African Americans.
…the priceless gift that African Americans gave the whole world when they were in slavery was a gift so great that it is now almost the only reason many foreigners still like us at least a little bit. That specific remedy for the worldwide epidemic of depression is a gift called the blues.
– Kurt Vonnegut
Experiencing the fire-bombing of Dresden made him a pacifist. He also sees that all wars and the destructive nature of capitalism (he was a huge fan of Eugene Debs) will do us in in the end. The quote below is from almost twenty years ago.
That’s the end of the good news about anything. Our planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of people. This is sure the way to do that.
KV, 6AM 11/3/2004
A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. I am giving it 5 stars as just being in the presence of Kurt Vonnegut’s wit is 5 stars. You can read A Man Without a Country in an afternoon.