Vonnegut, on politics, presidents and librarians, By Jacqueline Blais, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — Kurt Vonnegut opens an interview at La Mediterranée, a pretty Manhattan restaurant, this way:
"What do you want to talk about? Politics? Our president is a complete twit. I'll talk about the death of the novel. I'll talk about anything you want."
We are making "thermodynamic whoopee with atomic energy and fossil fuel." The part that makes him feel unfunny for the rest of his life: People don't "give a damn whether the planet goes on or not." We are, he writes, too cheap and lazy.
In short: "Human beings, past and present, have trashed the joint."
There is more where that came from.
The guessers (never filled with doubts) are in charge, wise people are despised, and the USA is now operating on the snake-oil standard, he writes.
Yes, and more.
From his perspective as a former World War II prisoner of war, Vonnegut writes that American soldiers in the Middle East are "being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."
Then, beyond all the gloom and doom, there are things to cling to.
Music (especially the blues) cheers him, as do people who behave decently. Librarians, too — "not famous for their physical strength" — who resist having books removed from shelves and refuse to give names of people who have checked out certain books in the era of the Patriot Act.
"The America I loved," he writes, "still exists in the front desks of public libraries."
His new book is A Man Without a Country (Seven Stories Press)
About the book one reviewer says:
Despite its appearance at the twilight of Vonnegut’s career, it is the ideal place to start reading his work, if you haven’t already. The book provides a straightforward, no-nonsense view of his thoughts, whereas his past work can be more alienating, using absurd and often abstract stories to get his points across.
There are no such excuses for not reading this book. It’s packed with brilliance, is easy to read, and will most likely be the last published book by one of the most relevant authors of our lifetime.