I was traveling last week when Kurt Vonnegut Jr. died and I didn't have a chance to comment on his passing. I was never a huge fan of his work or his persona, though, like Jesse Walker and many other libertarians I know, I enjoyed a number of his books and stories (high school, I'm sure, is a better place for having "Harrison Bergeron" on many mandatory reading lists).
But Vonnegut was also an unironic fool who both profoundly hated and misunderstood life in contemporary America. Here's a Hit & Run entry on that point from Brian Doherty in April 2003:
Kurt Vonnegut Wishes He Were Never Born
Kurt Vonnegut is now doing an advice column for the left-leaning biweekly In These Times (and slowly wearing away the residual affection I have for him based on how groovy I thought Cat's Cradle was when I was 12.) In the April 14 issue, he advises a woman thinking of having a baby: "Don't do it!" since the kid would be "unlucky to be in [a society] without a National Health plan or decent public education." While this anti-life, insanely privileged and whiny opinion is bad enough, somehow my respect for him as a writer and thinker was even more damaged by his further advice that she—to avoid having a baby who might have to suffer the existence-nullifying pain of perhaps having to, as an adult, pay for its own health insurance or medical bills—"go on practicing safe sex." That sort of lifeless, prissy, abstract bilge marks one as a social worker, not a practicer of literature.
And here's an entry by me from December 2002, a couple of weeks before Hit & Run actually went live:
Slaughterhouse Jive or, Why Kurt Vonnegut Is a Fool
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.
Maybe it's bad form to kick a man when he's beyond down, but somehow I suspect Vonnegut might appreciate it.