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HALL OF FAMEon 29 December 2005
If exile from one's homeland is grievous, then having your country pulled out from under you must be infinitely worse. Kurt Vonnegut expresses his strong feelings of betrayal at what the USA has become in his lifetime. He's angry and resentful, and every page in this little book seethes with his wrath. He has spent many years describing the warts his society exhibited, hoping his country would take heed of his words and excise the faults. It's almost as if nobody read his books, or at least take his criticisms seriously. Now, in advanced years, he is at his most direct in fulminating at the foibles of his countrymen. He hopes it isn't too late for the USA to return to the values it, and he, once cherished.

Vonnegut's mentor, Mark Twain, expressed the same sadness and remorse over the same people. That might suggest things haven't really gotten worse. Vonnegut, however, recognises that his country today exercises vastly more influence in the world, both physically and morally than that of Twain's day. "In case you haven't noticed" he cries, elections are stolen in the USA, its unelected leaders have dehumanized millions, "so I'm a man without a country". He fears things will go beyond this condition to apply the same standards to the entire planet. He foresees an epitaph for "the good Earth - we could have saved it, but we were to damn cheap and lazy."

The phrase "bitter old man" is certain to occur to readers of this collection. That judgement, of course, flies in the face of the voice of a man who's watched the course of the USA in a long lifetime. His most famous work, "Slaughterhouse Five", subtitled "The Children's Crusade" was a humanist's cry for increased awareness among his readers. That awareness, if it ever truly existed widely, has been snuffed out among Vonnegut's countrymen of today. This book recognises that new condition with a strident cry of protest. Why has this happened?, he demands. That he's published this collection is an acknowledgement that all may not be lost. Without boasting, instead he reminds of us his teachings with pickings from his earlier writings. If there is to be hope for Vonnegut's society and even the entire world, it would be wise to read and heed what he has to say. And to understand why he says it. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 August 2010
Old men often get progressively more conservative the older they get, but Kurt Vonnegut was never that kind of old man. A socialist in a country which venerates and promotes the interests of capitalism beyond all other principles, he has long been a lonely voice standing up for what he believes. He's one of the greatest of a very short list of American anti-authoritarianists. His best novels are undoubtedly Slaughterhouse 5 and Cat's Cradle. It was on the basis of the anthropological content of Cat's Cradle that Vonnegut was awarded a degree by the University of Chicago in 1971. He died at the age of 83 in 2007, following a fall at his Manhattan home.

This set of writings is a kind of brief touchstone for many of his central concerns. The only problem is that they are brief and often retain the levity and wit at the expense of the passion of the principles behind them. If this book was all you knew of Kurt Vonnegut you'd probably think he was just a carping lightweight. The substance of the man doesn't come through. But read it anyway, because it's fun, it's also angry in places, and it contains a lot of feeling if you look beyond the throw-away quirkiness. RIP Kurt. Your like will not be easily found.
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on 14 February 2006
Great to see that Vonnegut is still as wise and as cutting as ever in this latest (hopefully not 83 we still don't to lose him!) outing. Although some of the ground (and a few of the anecdotes) may be familiar to diehard fans, his razor wit and observation couple with this outrage at the evils of the world and you can't help but be uplifted. What a spirit, what a guy!
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on 1 February 2006
if you haven't read vonnegut's novels then read them. all of them. now. (my personal fave is Breakfast of Champions). the man is a subversive genius with an astonishing imagination and a unique way with words.
if you have read his novels, then you will no doubt be in love with this guy. if so, then this book is a must-read. simple as that.
(p.s - anyone that doesn't like him must be either illiterate or a republican. so you might as well just ignore the bad reviews.)
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on 1 February 2012
I read this in a few hours in one sitting. The man was a genius when it came to exposing the society he lived in and sticking up for the ordinary folk. I've enjoyed everything he has written, highly recommend all his work.
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on 26 April 2006
I love this book, and I have immense respect for Mr.V. I've read most of his books. He has turned me on to lots of ideas, Humanism being the main one.

In this round up of thoughts, he points out some very uncomfortable truths about the world we live in and our ignorance and he does this with frank bare-faced honesty, a man not long for this world he has so much to say to us, he has seen and been through so many things. He was in Dresden when the British bombed it, and the horror of it practically drove him mad, I believe his wife/mother drank Draino and killed herself, most of his friends are dead, he invented a religon and created Kigore Trout. When you read him, each sentence is loaded with thought and wit, he's like a full bodied wine.

I look forward to his next book.
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on 11 June 2011
Good collection of essays from a renowned writer that did provide good autobiographical insight not only into the man but into how he pursues his craft. Good service from Amazon. Recommended.
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on 25 January 2006
After reading the extract in the Guardian, this looks like it might a good swansong for Mr Vonnegut. Some of the material might have appeared elsewhere, but hey, its a new Kurt Vonnegut book.
(I don't know what the Californian guys problem is. Possibly a disgruntled Bush fan...)
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on 29 January 2006
I bought this from amazon's American site last year. It really is good, although as commented elsewhere, parts of it have appeared elsewhere, notably the In these Times website. It seems to me to be aimed at finding Vonnegut a new audience however, and for those who haven't read him before it's excellent stuff. Those who follow his works closely might want to hope that he finished the novel he says "won't be finished".
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on 31 March 2014
I have enjoyed reading k Vonnegut for years so I came to this with an expectation that I would enjoy what he had to say about whatever it was he was saying it about. I did. Not really a memoir but a collection of his observations and opinions on what a crummy lot we humans are. Not just that, but it's what it all boils down to essentially. So, depressing and funny at the same time. As you would expect. Bit short for the price but then can you really put a price on original thinking?
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