Man without a column

Kurt Vonnegut’s new book of essays, Man Without a Country, has been out there for a few months now. It won’t go down as one of his all-time greats, but it’s quite the quick and quotable read. Here are some snatches. (And yes, I do feel like taking the week off. Thanks for asking. But at least you’re not stuck reading one of my old columns):

“And I said good-bye to my friend, hung up the phone, sat down and wrote this epitaph: ‘The good Earth—we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.’”

“Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.” (That reminds me—this is Bruce again, interrupting my own column for a second. Christians, how exactly do you reconcile the fact that our professed born-again President, a man who reportedly wore one of those W.W.J.D. bracelets for a time, attacked a country he knew damn well was as much a threat to our security as Jamaica, and now, upwards of 40,000 human beings have died as a result? I’m honestly curious about this. Send replies to my e-mail here at the paper, and be forewarned that your response may be used in a future column. I will honor, of course, all requests for anonymity.)

“Foreigners love us for our jazz. And they don’t hate us for our purported liberty and justice for all. They hate us now for our arrogance.”

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’”

“We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”

“When I was in Shortridge High School in Indianapolis 65 years ago, a twerp was a guy who stuck a set of false teeth up his butt and bit the buttons off the back seat of taxicabs. And I consider anybody a twerp who hasn’t read the greatest American short story, which is ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’ by Ambrose Bierce. It isn’t remotely political. It is a flawless example of American genius, like ‘Sophisticated Lady’ by Duke Ellington or the Franklin Stove.”

“But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was well-read and wise. And his principle complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer and talking lazily about this or that, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

“I said, ‘Saul, how should I feel about Picasso?’ Six seconds passed, and then he said, ‘God put him on Earth to show us what it’s like to be really rich.’”