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A Man Without a Country [Hardcover]

Kurt Vonnegut , Dan Simon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 31 2005

A Man Without a Country is Kurt Vonnegut’s hilarious and razor-sharp look at life (“If I die—God forbid—I would like to go to heaven to ask somebody in charge up there, ‘Hey, what was the good news and what was the bad news?’”), art (“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”), politics (“I asked former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton what he thought of our great victory over Iraq and he said, ‘Mohammed Ali versus Mr. Rogers.’”), and the condition of the soul of America today (“What has happened to us?”). Gleaned from short essays and speeches composed over the last five years and plentifully illustrated with artwork by the author throughout, A Man Without a Country gives us Vonnegut both speaking out with indignation and writing tenderly to his fellow Americans, sometimes joking, at other times hopeless, always searching.

Kurt Vonnegut is among the very few grandmasters of contemporary American letters, without whom the very term “American literature” would mean less than it does. His novels include Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five, among so many others. Projects with Seven Stories Press in recent years include God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian and, with Lee Stringer, Like Shaking Hands with God, a book about writing. His most recent novel is Timequake (1997). In addition to his writing, Vonnegut is a visual artist of note. His paintings and prints can be seen at www.vonnegut.com. He lives with his wife, photographer Jill Krementz, in New York City.

Daniel Simon is the founder and publisher of Seven Stories Press and served as editor on two previous books by Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian and, with Lee Stringer, Like Shaking Hands God. Simon is also co-author of a biography of Abbie Hoffman, Run, Run, Run: The Lives of Abbie Hoffman.


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From Publishers Weekly

In his first book since 1999, it's just like old times as Vonnegut (now 82) makes with the deeply black humor in this collection of articles written over the last five years, many from the alternative magazine In These Times. But the pessimistic wisecracks may be wearing thin; the conversational tone of the pieces is like Garrison Keillor with a savage undercurrent. Still, the schtick works fine most of the time, underscored by hand-lettered aphorisms between chapters. Some essays suffer from authorial self-indulgence, however, like taking a dull story about mailing a manuscript and stretching it to interminable lengths. Vonnegut reserves special bile for the "psychopathic personalities" (i.e., "smart, personable people who have no consciences") in the Bush administration, which he accuses of invading Iraq so America can score more of the oil to which we have become addicted. People, he says, are just "chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power." Of course, that's exactly the sort of misanthropy hardcore Vonnegut fans will lap up—the online versions of these pieces are already described as the most popular Web pages in the history of In These Times. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

'Part memoir, part rant and part joke, Vonnegut's latest book is as elusive as it is beguiling. Throughout this slim volume, the author walks a fine line between despair over our deteriorating world and a consummate entertainer's urge to amuse' Sunday Times 'Vonnegut's A Man without a Country is pure late Twain, darkly funny, never less than enraged at corruption and greed, and overflowing with compassion for the powerless. We've never needed him more' Russell Banks 'If Vonnegut isn't the enduring Good Humor man, who is?' John Irving, The Times 'This enjoyable volume of reflections and anecdotes reminds us what is unique about the author of those startlingly good American novels Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions ... Kurt Vonnegut is one of the greatest writers of the past 50 years' Daily Telegraph --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The guy can't write a bad book March 11 2006
By Seabold
Format:Hardcover
Having read everything that Mr. V has ever written, I was salivating, waiting for this next foray into weird-land. I was not disappointed. Everything this man touches turns to gold, and his latest literary effort is no exception. If you want to ponder humanity, the human condition, and all that goes with it, then this will be your cup of tea. I bought this along with Jackson McCrae’s “Katzenjammer” and loved both books. You will too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like having a conversation with the author Sept. 8 2012
By ldnsara
Format:Paperback
I love Vonnegut's writing style, his unique way of seeing the world, and this book (almost memoir) feels like a true conversation with the man himself. Full of insightful and provocative quips on politics, America, human nature and life in general, it's truly a wonderful read, even for those who aren't familiar with the author and his famous works.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  243 reviews
415 of 479 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything Was Beautiful Sept. 28 2005
By David Kleist - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reviews like the one below by the 23-year-old who never had read Vonnegut before this current volume remind me of Mr. V.'s statement (I paraphrase, perhaps grotesquely) that the cumulative effect of the Vietnam-war protests and of '60s activism in general was that of a banana-cream pie hurled off a stepladder: here is unquestionably the Greatest of contemporary American novelists, whose work and vision as a whole provide clarity, wisdom, and guidance with humor and love for both the survival of the species and for America--yet he remains largely ignored and neglected by the current American demos, for whom democracy is named, and reviewed by only 24 or so while the latest potboiler gets 345 Amazon reviews the very day it's published.

Certainly Vonnegut himself is well aware of these vagaries of fame and influence.

But let me heartily proclaim the obvious--that we truly should declare Mr. V.'s birthday a new national holiday (strapping it firmly to the one, for some, it already is on 11/11); schoolchildren should compete in Vonnegut Declamation Contests, vying to repeat from memory the longest and most salient passages from his works; we should have Vonnegut Festivals, Seminars, Television sitcoms, toothpaste, bottled water--even a Vonnegut Party in national, state, and local elections, which might well take the place of the corrupt and anemic Democrats.

Alas, it seems we are repeating the past as the Old Reliables (Studs Terkel, John Leonard, and company) trot out their appropriate praises; some teevee interviews are conducted; the bored Harvard and Yale crowds clap politely; the schoolchildren continue with their videogaming and baby-producing; and New Orleans is reduced to a new Love Canal, Iraq civil-wars, the wealthy bolt their gated enclaves, and the rest of us, debt-torn and grief-fatigued, stew in our own juices.

Look: if you haven't done so recently, go back and reread (or first-read) SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, CAT'S CRADLE, HOCUS-POCUS, GALAPAGOS, GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and MOTHER NIGHT (among others: but start with these).

Think about what the man is saying. Look around you. Maybe turn off your television for a moment of silence.

Here is the real deal, folks.

This is our guy. Ignore him at your peril.

Let's get those "Sermon on the Mount" plaques up in every corporate lobby.

Let's get tap-dancing. There's not much time left for a party.
162 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect epilogue. Sept. 13 2005
By Kevin P. Cullen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kurt finally concludes the half-century journey on which he has taken us with this hilarious, heartfelt, charming epilogue. Vonnegut gives us literary polaroids of his childhood and day-to-day life, places us at the dinner table with Mark Twain, Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, and Eugene Debs, and manages to answer the question: "What does it mean to be human?" All the while single handedly battling George W. Bush, H-Bombs, and the "Guessers."
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Kurt. Sept. 20 2005
By Ben Mack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you are a humanist, you will probably dig Man Without A Country. I've read the Amazon reviews, and I'm astounded by people who take offense to Vonnegut's humanistic perspective. One reviewer below suggests that A Man Without A Country contains talking points straight from the Democratic National Committee. I checked the DNC website and couldn't identify any lines from Vonnegut's book. So it goes.

Yes, Vonnegut draws connections between Bush and Hitler-they both called themselves Christians despite what many "liberal" documentaries suggest about Hitler being a pagan. But being opposed to Bush doesn't make Kurt a Democrat. Read Kurt's words, HE'S A HUMANIST. For those of you that are anti-humanists, there are plenty of sentences to be taken out of context to exploit towards your own divisive agendas. Vonnegut reminds us of a line by Shakespeare: "The Devil will quote scripture for his purpose."

When did respecting each other become politically divisive? I've often wondered why respecting science is politically divisive. Kurt sheds some light on these topics among others.

Look, if you think the world is all hunky-dory, this won't be your cup of tea. Or, if you dug Vonnegut's earlier work solely for his humor, you may be disappointed with this read. Vonnegut grapples with his grasp on turning out humor, about how other humorists loose their humor as they age. Vonnegut still has his humor, but he is pissed off--many readers haven't known when he has been joking and when he has been serious. For the remedial readers he annotates his jokes by saying, "I'm kidding."

Just because Kurt loves humans, he isn't beyond shaking his finger at those who preach love as they drop bombs and enslave little brown folks. If you object to this assessment of our current world order, and you have read the books Vonnegut suggests every non-twerp has read, then, I'm open to reading your objections to the content of Kurt's assertions. Seriously, do you consume much non-American media?

Fellow humanists, it's time to take these ideas seriously. Enough of the politicians spewing their accusations at the other party. Kurt would prefer politicians stop partying and work on real peaceful, humanitarian efforts, like providing drinkable water.

Kurt begins his penultimate book: "There is no reason good can't triumph over evil, if only angels will get organized along the lines of the mafia."

Here's to Bokonon. * Kurt, I look forward to reading your next novel. I hope you do find a way to write its ending.
54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Sept. 15 2005
By Stanley D. Wolfersberger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I came across this book via an unlikely source: John Stewart's interview with Vonnegut on the Daily Show. While I'd heard the name Vonnegut before, I never really knew anything about him or his views, nor his comedic look on certain pressing issues.

At the same time, I found myself (as I dazed in a tired stupor at the boob-tube) wondering why and how this overtly charismatic man, a potential American literary icon, had escaped my knowledge. As I thought more and more, I realized that whether I liked his writings or not, or whether or not I disagreed with him, I needed to read through some of his works -- a sort of "Obligation of the American Soul®" if you will.

And so, as a 23-year old recent college graduate, I ponied up the money and headed to the local Border's shop to pick up the latest (and supposedly final) of his books, A Man Without A Country. I'm not sorry I did.

Vonnegut employs a very readable, conversational style of writing, which lends a sort of friendly "Hey, here's what I think, you go mull it over while I do something else" attitude. While I don't find myself in complete agreeance with everything he says, I believe his general ideas provoke thought and consideration, and his experience and wisdom should not go unnoticed. Any man or woman who has lived to the ripe age of 82 should have some important points to make about life, and one who is as politically charged and sassy as Vonnegut makes several excellent arguments.

I'm not (at this point) familiar with his earlier works, and so I cannot say whether or not he's repeating himself or pulling the same old stunts. What I can say is that if you have a couple hours on hand, you should buy or borrow this book and take a peek through its pages.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The genuine article sings a misanthropic somewhat sad swan- song Sept. 19 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is the rarest of writers, a genuinely funny and unique person, with a voice like no other, and a way of seeing things all his own. All his books have his own strange combination of truth- telling , fantasy, crazy fact,jibe, reflection, and original insight.

In this one written when he is eighty- two he does a hatchet - job on the Bush Administration, the consuming -carelessly gas- guzzling American, and humanity in general. The title of the work is explained by Vonnegut,""I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times."

He criticizes humanity for being chimpanzees in love with their own power. But as always with Vonnegut there is some lurking hint of redemption and cockeyed affection in the pages. In these essays one center of that is his essay on extended families which he favors. He is dismayed at the thought that most people today are so self- centered that they give little time to planning and acting for generations ahead.

With Vonnegut the diatribe can be tiresome but it is most often redeemed with some flash of crack- up humor.In explaining why he wrote the book at his advanced age when his own father retired at fifty- five,he says " I've lived a long time . I didn't plan to live so long. It was a graceless thing to do. But what am I going to do with myself. This is what I do."

In reflecting upon humanity , he says " Only a nut case would want to be a human being, if he or she had the choice"

This kind of stuff may be tiresome, but I don't think Vonnegut should be taken so literally. The humor tells us that despite all the condemnations he has a bit of hope at least for some of us.

Vonnegut's writings have given a lot of people pleasure through the years. That he is disenchanted with most of us does not mean that we should be disenchanted with him.

I think instead we should take the best of what he has to give, and consider seriously his criticisms of us, even if a good share are judged by us to be unfair.

The planet is helped a bit by having this kind of old codger and his writings around.

You may not like us so much Mr.Vonnegut, but some of us sure do like you.
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