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article imageReview: Kurt Vonnegut's 'A Man Without a Country'

By Chelsea Kirk     Feb 1, 2013 in Entertainment
If you’ve never once picked up a book by Kurt Vonnegut, came across an essay of his, or even peeked at a short story written by him, then you’re missing out.
If you’re unfamiliar with the name or have no interest in reading whatsoever, the time to change that is now. I have deemed Vonnegut one of my favorite writers of all time (by all time I mean the whole 18 years I’ve been on this earth) and this is why.
He was born on November 11, 1922 in Indianapolis, Ind. He was titled a 20th century, fiction writer after his first short story publication, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (1950) and his first novel “Player Piano” (1952). He was a socialist and found himself to be very skeptical of traditional values, which was the result of growing up in a family of free thinkers.
He developed a peculiar style of writing, not one that was easily identifiable. He wasn’t a fantasy writer and he wasn’t just a science fiction writer. He was a realist, but not in the way Ernest Hemmingway was. He gives his readers a strong dose of realism, leveled out with humor and satire, but the substance of his writing is what makes it one of a kind. Kevin McGowin, a writer of Oyster Boy Review, mentions, “…you read a Vonnegut book and you've suddenly learned more about History and Sociology and Anthropology and Philosophy than one can or does in most specialized College courses”. His writing style is unlike any other; most would claim he is the Mark Twain of today. Vonnegut uses humor in a special way; he believes it is the only way for us to truly deal with the horrible things American Society has produced. And if you’re an optimist you have two options, stop here or allow Vonnegut to change the way you view the world you live in.
When reading Vonnegut, you are reading the work of a depressed mind, he would much rather have preferred to be an optimist, but his existence in this cruel world did not allow that. Vonnegut was a chemist and a journalist before he joined the U.S. Army and served in World War II. His experience during the war had a towering influence over his work.
Throughout his life he wrote fourteen novels, five scripts, five essay collections, four short story collections, attempted to commit suicide (surprised?), and religiously smoked Pall Mall cigarettes till death do them part.
In 1997, with his publication of the novel “Timequake”, Vonnegut claimed his fiction writing days were over. In 2005 a collection of his essays turned into a new best selling book titled, “A Man Without a Country”.
“A Man Without a Country” is something I advise each and every one of you to read, that is, if you’re a firm believer in civil liberty. Vonnegut himself was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and an advocate for humanism. This easy to read, collection of non-fiction essays is one of my favorite pieces by him. If you’re a slow reader or not a reader at all, don’t fret; it’s engaging and its simple prose will only take you two hours to read in one sitting.
Remember you’re reading a collection of non-fiction essays that covers a wide variety of subjects, don’t expect to delve into a conventional plotline. This witty and philosophical book will provide you with a great overview of Vonnegut’s concerns with American Society. He preaches about fossil fuels, art, mass media, public libraries, chain-smoking, reliance on technology, and the use of semicolons. Vonnegut is a man without a country, hence the self-descriptive title. If you have not yet questioned the modesty of our country, you soon will. Vonnegut makes aware the matter fact that human beings are dehumanizing. Through war and destruction they have managed to find a way to continuously harm our life support system, the earth, and now Mother Nature is angry.
On April 11, 2007 Vonnegut’s personal life support system failed and he died from brain injuries, several weeks after falling down a flight of stairs. He lived to be 84.
“And I apologize to all of you who are the same age as my grandchildren. And many of you reading this are the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
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