Slaughterhouse Jive or, Why Kurt Vonnegut Is a Fool

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In the November issue of Indianapolis Monthly, the 80-year-old Vonnegut reminds the world why he's a has-been.

"There's so much talk about 9/11,"
observes the novelist best known for Slaughterhouse Five, a book inspired in part by his experience surviving the firebombing of Dresden, "but what the crooks on Wall Street and in big corporations have done to us has been more destructive."

At the very least, the major corporations that published Galapagos, Deadeye Dick, and Timequake have some explaining to do.

NEXT: Compare and Contrast

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  1. One could make a case that the societal, fiscal and policy convulsions we’ve gone through because of 9/11 are an overreaction.

    Al Qaida is surely kaput or close to it in this country — else some follow-up would have been attempted in all this time.

    Yet America keeps making baby steps toward a police state, and spending money like a drunken sailor with six months pay in his pockets.

    Vonnegut’s right to remind us we should be mending our staggering capitalist system before it steps into a manhole.

    With so many other countries’ economies in the tank, a global depression is a real possibility.

  2. Has it occurred to those detractors who point out Vonnegut’s age that those years may have brought him, along with his survival of the Dresden bombing, a bit of experience and wisdom? Calling anyone, especially Kurt Vonnegut, a fool simply because he disagrees with your viewpoint, truly makes one appear, well, foolish.

  3. I think the most interesting thing about KVJ’s anti-capitalist statement is that he is very open about writing strictly for income. He quit his job at GE because his writing income looked to be a better paying job.

    Clearly, he hates book tours, but goes on them in order to promote his novels in order to make even more money.

    This in-your-face capitalism, this desire for more and more and more, it is just disgusting. When will the fat cat lay down and die, providing room for other up and coming writers to take his place?

    I hate the rich.

  4. This is depressing, I always admired Vonnegut and liked his books very much. I hope that it is just due to his old age.

    Harold Pinter and Hunter S. Thompson have been similar post 911 let-downs.

  5. Read “Player Piano” and the ideas on which his comments are based will be obvious. Of course, this doesn’t refute your opinion that he’s a has-been; the book was first published in 1952.

  6. I don’t see a has-been speaking. I see a man with an opinion being mocked.

    Perhaps in context his quote might make more sense. Was he talking about the collapse of the stock market that eviscerated much of middle America’s pension funds? My 73-year-old mother worked hard all her life, gets social security and a trivial pension from Eastern Airlines (a victim of the 1980s corporate merger mania), and invested the money from the sale of her house into stocks and money market accounts. She didn’t do it on her own; she got a financial counselor and double-checked with knowledgeable family members.

    And yet now her nest egg is down severely, and she worries about being able to make ends meet.

    Perhaps this is what Vonnegut was talking about, coupled with such corporate disasters as Enron. I can’t tell, as the magazine is not available and I only have the one line and a pretty snotty remark to go by.

    Has-been? Why, because he still holds the same political views he held thirty years ago?

    I thought that was consistency.

  7. You were expecting him to do what? Praise war? Or do you just not like the negative comments on the all mighty big corporations? Since the interview is not online I can’t judge the whole article, but your quotes are nothing that 1/2 to 2/3rds of congress has not said in wake of the Enron/WorldCom scandals. I miss the real fault with his comments, other than your disappointment with some of his novels. I liked Deadeye Dick and Timequake, but I would agree that Galapagos was a little slow.

  8. Not to quibble, but Galapagos was a pretty good effort. Deadeye Dick and Timequake did, indeed, suck.

  9. Eventually, we as a society are going to have to accept that being really good at one thing – in this case, writing – doesn’t make you worth listening to as a public policy analyst. Apply this to Alec Baldwin and acting, Bono and music, and Noam Chomsky and linguistics.

    Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” is as relevant today as the day he wrote it.

  10. Indeed, “Harrison Bergeron” does a better job of making some fundamental libertarian points than a truckload of Ayn Rand novels.

  11. Vonnegut, et al., have lived for so long with the notion that the US is the primum mobile of evil in the world, that it is reflexive for him. When confronted with real, naked, and deliberate evil–not the half-hearted, almost accidental sort that the US has sometimes caused–it is so far outside their worldview that it simply gets dismissed. Other nations and other actors in the world have been dismissed in the past for crimes far worse than September 11 (viz., nearly every odious thing about the USSR), the only surprising thing would be if the left suddenly woke up and realized that in fact there is lots of evil in the world, and the US is by the most angry reading merely the junior varsity.

    I wonder if Vonnegut will make TIAA-CREF stop running those ads where he praises their ability to manage his money…?

  12. There’s a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 comparisons that bring out the kind of things you’re thinking of, Colby, but I’m saying I want to read the entire article before I accuse Kurt Vonnegut of being indifferent to 3,000 deaths.

    This is the man who is completely anti-war, has been since he was a soldier in WWII (let’s not forget he witnessed the aftermath of the Dresden firebombing), and has never shied from expressing his opinion.

    Let’s get hold of the article first. Then we can dicuss exactly what he’s trying to say.

  13. “Destructive” doesn’t mean just senseless violence and war. Natural disasters, diseases, starvation, etc., are also pretty destructive. And corporate capitalist greed was a primary cause of the Great Depression (into which I was born) when countless millions suffered misery and death. You don’t have to die in a burning building to be victimized. Disasters are everywhere and unending.
    One of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut truisms: “You know what the truth is?…It’s some crazy thing my neighbor believes. If I want to make friends with him, I ask him what he believes. He tells me, and I say, ‘Yeah, yeah — ain’t it the truth?”
    (from Breakfast of Champions).

  14. Unless your grandmother was somehow incinerated by jet fuel or dropped ninety stories to the pavement by her financial analyst, you’re missing Nick’s point. “More destructive than 9/11”, Vonnegut said.

  15. Vonnegut’s right. I’ve been far more fucked by the bastards on Wall Street that by terrorists knocking down a couple of buildings. The terrorists would have done me more of a favor by crashing into Wall Street.

  16. Vonnegut’s right. I’ve been far more fucked by the bastards on Wall Street than by terrorists knocking down a couple of buildings. The terrorists would have done me more of a favor by crashing into Wall Street.

  17. JB, you can say that again.

  18. If i were to try and correct all the wrong things said on this page it would take all day. I never cease to be disappointed by the comments written by such clueless people on a topic they all think they are experts. Now that i have insulted you i would like to say a few things. If any of you above have ever read even a few pages of Vonnegut, you would understand that a single sentence out of context doesn’t express vonnegut at all. Carl Jung… of course he writes for income, but he quit his job at GE cause he hated the job, not because of the money. Doesn’t writing sound better than a job a GE, can you blame him? You hate the rich because you are jealous. John Foland has the best comment on this page. It is a pity more people can’t understand his work. An intelligent author can’t expect an intelligent audience, and by the posts here I am wondering why I am replying to the same goddamn audience.

  19. Vonnegut has always used crass statements to get people’s attention, probably getting roughly the same range of reactions as I found here. The point is to get people to think. What made people want to plow airplanes into U.S. skyscrapers, and why did half the middle-east have street parties after catching the 9/11 action on TV? Has anything we’ve done since then addressed those issues? Certainly (pinpoint) bombing the shit out of Afghanistan and Iraq isn’t doing wonders for our reputation with the locals. As an American living overseas, 9/11 and the subsequent hysteria has been pretty embarrassing. Don’t get me started on more recent events like boycotting french fries. Believe me, the last thing any respectable French person would want to be associated with is french fries (purely an American invention). I digress. We need some perspective, and I think Vonnegut was just trying to say that.

  20. >> –not the half-hearted, almost accidental sort that the US has sometimes caused–
    —-

    There is one thing that unites U.S. and the Al Q… both are strong in the sense of their own righteousness. So “half-hearted” is probably not an accurate description.

  21. I believe that when the truth comes out about really was behind 9-11. you, sir, will find out exactly who the fool really is.Your idiotic jingoistic patriotism is not only foolish but un-american.Do you think your earning brownie points with those who are in power?Let me tell you something, fool, Nobody is watching to find out how much support people like you are giving them.So don’t be calling a genius like Mr. vonnegut a fool,you corporate stooge!

  22. a while ago, nietzsche already described the world as full of illusions, wishes and frustrations, where there is no absolute thruth or knowledge.A world where Dogma would lead to warfare. Likewise, Kurt Vonnegut is just pointing a finger to what is going on in a very ironic way. Each culture has its truth, its moral, its god, and it is difficult to accept the existence of other gods, other morals, other truth. Instead of accepting we try to affirm “our truth” as if it were superior.

  23. He, by no means justified 9/11. I think he means that everybody is looking for the devil outside the States. Where’s self-inspection? Are you sure all the bad comes from outside? Sadly enough, 9/11 became a ‘good’ means of not talking about anything regarding internal issues.

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