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One for the Good Guys (review of new Vonnegut book)

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n2doc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-02-09 07:17 AM
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One for the Good Guys (review of new Vonnegut book)
Published: October 29, 2009

Its been two years since Kurt Vonnegut departed this world, and its hard not to feel a bit rudderless without him. Late in his life, Vonnegut issued a series of wonderfully exasperated columns for the magazine In These Times. During the darkest years of the Bush administration, these essays, later collected in A Man Without a Country, were guide and serum to anyone with a feeling that pretty much everyone had lost their minds. In a 2003 interview, when asked the softball question How are you? he answered: Im mad about being old, and Im mad about being American. Apart from that, O.K.

Vonnegut left the planet just about the time we, as a nation, were crawling toward the light again, so its tempting to wonder what he would have made of where we are now. Would he have been pleased by the election of Barack Obama? Most likely hed have been momentarily heartened, then exasperated once again witnessing the lunatic- strewn town halls, the Afghanistan quagmire, the triumph of volume over reason, of machinery over humanity.

For the last many decades of his life, Vonnegut was our sage and chain-smoking truth-teller, but before that, before his trademark black humor and the cosmic scope of Cats Cradle and Slaughterhouse- Five, he was a journeyman writer of tidy short fictions.

Unpublished is not a word we identify with a Kurt Vonnegut short story, Sidney Offit notes in his foreword to Look at the Birdie, a new collection of Vonneguts early, and unpublished, short fiction. Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries of similar stature, Vonnegut was until early middle age a practical and adaptable writer, a guy who knew how to survive on his fiction. In the era of the slicks weekly and monthly magazines that would pay decently for fiction a writer had to have a feel for what would sell. The 14 stories in Look at the Birdie, none of them afraid to entertain, dabble in whodunnitry, science fiction and commanding fables of good versus evil. Why these stories went unpublished is hard to answer. Theyre polished, theyre relentlessly fun to read, and every last one of them comes to a neat and satisfying end. For transmittal of moral instruction, they are incredibly efficient delivery devices.

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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-09-09 08:00 AM
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1. "Look at the Birdie"
is, at this moment, sitting in my pile of books ready to read; about 2 books to go before I get to it.

I'm not in a hurry, since this is likely the last "new" Vonnegut I'll ever get.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-09-09 08:32 AM
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2. I'll have to read this book.
But, truth and justice triumphing in a Vonnegut story? Sounds weird.
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