Sunday, October 09, 2005

An American Icon

Kurt Vonnegut has written another book, and as all consciencious writers these days is making the talk show circuit. I've had a chance to catch him on a number of shows, including a 25 minute conversation with David Brancaccio on the now gutted PBS news magazine NOW.

As one of those who grew up reading Vonnegut and whose life was partially influenced by the man, I was struck by how he's settled into his place as an American icon. Love him or hate him (he does say some over-the-top things that make me uneasy, a la Michael Moore), he resembles a modern day Mark Twain; witty, clever, cynical, critical, fearless. There's one glaring difference however: I believe Twain was ultimately optimistic, Vonnegut is decidedly not.

Among his pearls:
  • He wants to sue cigarette manufacturers for false advertising. A long time smoker, he says there's a notice on the side of each pack promising him they'd kill him, yet he's still alive (he turns 83 next month).
  • He says we have a one party government: the Winners. The Winners are the wealthy, priveleged republicans and democrats (in power). Everybody else is the Losers.
  • He's proud to call himself a Luddite.
  • He noted that modern day righties who call themselves "Christians" spend their time talking about the Ten Commandments and the "eye for an eye" principle (neither is part of Christ's teachings), yet never mention the Beatitudes (the central core of JC's teachings of compassion, tolerance and humility).
More at his web site. Click on "news".

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