In this sad time of pasty-white Bill Mahers and bloated fat-bodies like Michael Moore, liberals have very few people to admire. We have a common belief, but are ridiculed because of our spokesmen. Now, one of our perennial voices, Kurt Vonnegut, has thrown himself back into the fray with his latest (yet probably most disappointing) novel, ‘A Man Without a Country,’ which was released in September.
After nearly eight years since his last novel, ‘Timequake,’ the now eighty-two year old Vonnegut returns to cast his eyes (and his judgment) upon modern American culture, government and big business.
Unlike his previous works, ‘A Man Without a Country’ is a series of short ‘conversations’ with the reader. He begins by giving a succinct account of growing up in the Depression, surviving World War Two, etc.
In fact, this is one of the snags that Vonnegut trips over in ‘A Man Without a Country.’ Many of his early points in the book borrow from earlier works, which is both unfortunate and disappointing.
For instance, readers of ‘Slaughter House Five’ will most likely not be shocked again to hear about the bombing of Dresden. Nor will readers want to trudge through the same story explaining of how ‘Slaughter House Five’ gained the subtitle of ‘The Children’s Crusade.’
The points he makes are interesting and insightful. However, they belong in only one book.
Instead of attacking mainly politics, as the title seems to suggest, Vonnegut explores a wide range of criticisms.
One surprising and persistent factor that exists in the novel is his view toward the human race as a whole. He insists that humans are destroying the earth and that as a defense mechanism; the earth is releasing diseases, disaster and death (oh my) in order to destroy humanity. This is a belief that seems too harsh and rambling for Vonnegut to follow. He wants to sound like a modern Walden, but instead, he comes off as a tree-humping hippy.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a friend of the hippies, but my definition of free-love does not involve foliage in any way.
Vonnegut also seems to align himself with some awkward figures. He quotes incessantly the speeches of Abraham Lincoln with a patriotic elementary school child’s fervor. To Vonnegut, the fact that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a publicity act to gain the support of Europe never crossed his mind. At least he didn’t use Washington’s ‘never telling a lie’ schpiel as an example.
Vonnegut also seems to have become overly religious by constantly going over the themes of the Bible. The fact that Christianity led to the death and suppression of millions of people throughout history is also a completely ignored fact.
A religious man could not have written like Vonnegut. His old age (and impending death) must be playing some type of factor.
Now, when Vonnegut does finally touch on politics, readers will find that he wasted all his energy on the trees. It is not insightful to make fun of Bush’s bad grammar and drunken past. It’s been said over and over again since 2000, but the people (for some crazy reason) just don’t care, so let’s hear something new.
That’s not to say it’s all bad, however. ‘A Man Without a Country’ does point out some interesting facts about Bush’s administration, although those ideas are borrowed from Freudian theories.
In the end, ‘A Man Without a Country’ is a collection of random points and arguments that make Vonnegut’s latest work a novel without a voice.
T.S. Eliot was right. The world does end with a whimper instead of a bang.
Filed Under: Features