Man Without A Country – Kurt Vonnegut

I believe it was the late Jean Baudrillard that said if Kurt Vonnegut didn’t exist we’d have to invent him. Thankfully he does exist. And, the man is a genius. Simple and true. the fourteen novels that make up the main body of his work (alongside numerous plays, some autobiographical work and a million billion short stories) can stand beside the work of any other twentieth century novelist and head and shoulders above most. Actually, scratch that, any novelist of any century. I don’t believe that there’s anyone manages to say so much about the intangible bits of the human condition with such warmth and humour.

When he announced that 1996’s Timequake would be his last book, I was beside myself with despair. How could the world cope without his voice? This is his fourth since then.

Man Without A Country is a very slight, vague deconstruction of what it means to be an American today. Something he seems to be none too pleased with. But still he manages to highlight the essential goodness in people and glory in the minutiae of life (the piece about eschewing email in favour of snail mail because he likes the interaction with the envelope seller and the postmistress he’s secretly in love with is a joy).

Coming in at 130 pages with big spacing and lots of full page illustration there’s not really much to this. Yet, within that scant volume it manages to be unfocused and scattershot. You wouldn’t recommended this to a Vonnegut newbie. But, you still wouldn’t try and dissuade them from reading it. He still manages to exude more humanity than any single person has any right to. Oh, and he does have a very valid point (whatever you take his point to be). His musings on never having won the Nobel Prize being something to do with what a bad Saab salesman he used to be are hilarious.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

16 March 2007 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Books

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