Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author. Whenever I meet someone new, and the topic of books comes up, I give them a copy of "Slaughterhouse Five". I must have give away at least a dozen copies of this book over the years, and somehow I still have two copies (both unread) sitting on my bookshelf. His collection of short stories "Welcome to the Monkey House" is a master class in how to capture the readers imagination in a handful of words.
Despite my love for his work, I was slightly ignorant of his origins. It turns out that he was born a few hours away from where I grew up in Indianapolis. While I was there, I was so pleased to discover the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. This small museum contains a wide variety of artifacts, books, and personal letters from Vonnegut's life. I picked up a copy of his "memoir" titled "A Man Without a Country" along with a handful of other books that I probably already owned.
A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY
160 pp. Random House Trade Paperbacks $16
In this short read, Vonnegut gives us a rare peak into his mind. He writes about jokes, growing up in Indianapolis, serving in the Army during World War II, Socialism, George W. Bush, and even provides a brief lesson on the craft of creative writing. For the first time, I finally realize what the hell "Kafkaesque" means thanks to a simple diagram that he drew.
The book is full of traditional Vonnegutesque cynicism and truisms.
"All great literature ... [is] ... about what a bummer it is to be a human being."
He describes himself as a "continental freshwater person". This is the most interesting description of the mindset of someone who grows up in the midwest, potentially opposed to "costal elites".
Vonnegut fans will love the insight that this book provides into his mind. Aspiring writers will either be inspired, or discouraged by his perspectives on the life of a writer.
"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable."
Everyone should read this book, and hopefully be inspired to read his other work. If you need a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, let me know in the comments below, I have two extras.