Vonnegut is a giant in American literature, there’s no question. A Mark Twain for the 2nd half of the 20th century, he’s always had a clear, crisp voice that was unafraid to use the absurd aspects of — well, everything — to make broader points about the way we live our lives and the decisions we’re making with society. Over the last few years of his life, though, he got particularly bitter — not just biting and sarcastic, which characterizes his whole body of work — but really angry and disaffected. A consequence of living the last decade of your life in, well, this decade we’re in, I’m afraid.
Anyway, so that’s why it was nice to read some of the stories and essays in this collection — they read like the younger (relatively), less bitter Vonnegut — the voice like Heller’s in Catch-22 that’s just trying to catch a glimpse of what war’s about, what good it could possibly be for.
So I like this collection as a better epitaph to Vonnegut’s whole career than the last non-posthumous book he published, A Man Without a Country. Not the finest literature of his life, but a pure, clear voice in a context of chaos.
So it goes.