Mel's Reviews > A Man Without a Country

A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
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Aug 03, 08

bookshelves: essays, nonfiction


The cover quotes the Los Angeles Times as saying, “[This] may be as close as
Vonnegut comes to a memoir.” But it’s not really a memoir. Sure, it reflects upon the
past, nationally more than personally. And that’s what drives the linked essays; they’re
not personal. That’s what makes them personal.

Vonnegut shares with the reader his disillusionment: “Many years ago I was so innocent
I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America
so many members of my generation used to dream of.” He reminds his readers of their
own disillusionment – lost idealism.

Vonnegut is angry – and damn it you should be too. He goes on to say, “But now I know
there is not a chance in hell of America becoming humane and reasonable.” His caustic
commentary on the state of the nation is erudite and biting. He tackles politics, religion,
fossil fuel – and the art of writing well. How do they all interrelate? How did this
conflagration create Vonnegut? How did it make America the place it has come to be –
and American a shameful adjective? For Vonnegut, as for many of us, it has come to
be through the toxicity of the administration currently in Washington. And Kurt has no
problem saying so on page after page. He laments, “The last thing I ever wanted was to
be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named
Bush, Dick, and Colon.”

Me too.

He, in one brief passage, makes heroes of librarians while disparaging all of
Washington: “So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme
Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still
exists at the front desks of our public libraries.” Indeed it does – and in the pages of
some of America’s best-written political commentary of the day.

The slim volume, a mere hundred-forty-five pages, assaults the reader’s sensibilities on
every page. The prose is crisp, piercing, and on target. Perhaps the book is good
because I agree with its politics, perhaps because Vonnegut’s truth is my truth. Perhaps
because he states so clearly what the rest of us fear saying. It is the kind of book that,
page after page, the reader replies, to no one in general, damn I wish I said that.
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