Tuesday, September 18

A Man Without a Face

I'm home in Rochester Hills, Michigan at the moment. I'm recovering from surgery on my upper jaw last week to correct growth deficiencies. All in all, the progress is good. The salient fact is that I am spending ample amounts of time on my ass.

Reading hasn't been occupying too much time, contrary to expectations. Mostly, I have had my switches set to "lay and watch" mode, which has delighted me with the intake of season one of The Wire (style note: Is it correct that a television program's title is italicized while individual episode titles are put in quotations?), lots of sports, and Giada De Laurentiis in HD. Yum.

But books are next on my list. I've been dipping into more short stories supplied to me by the anthological The Better of McSweeney's, Volume 1 and some nonfiction WWI short essays. And today I started reading - and nearly finished, it's short - Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country. Shamefully, this is the first Vonnegut that I have consumed. It won't be the last. I'm going to take a guess without knowing the truth that Vonnegut is known for simplicity. Straightforward representations of big ideas, maybe? Am I way off on this?

In any case, that's the mood of this memoir. He devotes scant pages to topics like the world's oil addiction, the nature of humorism/comedy, and plot construction. But he gets his point across poignantly more often than not. An efficiency in presentation of a wealth of ideas, this book.

Not having personal experience with his writing, Kurt Vonnegut was to me still an Icon. A force of literary expression that I was very aware of, but whose true power I hadn't witnessed. A hurricane on the news. It's odd to me to see him writing about current events, namely the political and societal, um, situation (meltdown [one-way handbasket trip]) of the United States in 2007. He even jokes gently and darkly about wishing to have died before the current lot took control and the current (not reasonably deniable) fascism (my word choice) gripped. Boots on the march and such imagery.

It makes me feel sadly. Those people in the world who get the Big Respect - figures like Vonnegut, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, etc. - had (or will have) their time on earth sullied and defiled by unluckily dying during these dark days. O, fretful youth, it's too bad. And it's too bad that millions won't read Mr. Vonnegut's words and finally GET IT.

A Man Without a Country is a book to be read by all.

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