Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade Against Stupidity #BookReport

Considering he passed away in 2007, reading ‘A Man Without a Country’ is probably the closest I’ll ever get to meeting Kurt Vonnegut. And I’m not okay with that. His essays here are honest, pessimistic and funny as hell.

Everyone should read Vonnegut. Age is not a factor here. Vonnegut is a Socratic thinker – he questions everything and that is not a bad thing.

So many topics are dipped in and out of in these essays and his opinions are gut punches against society, each and every one of them… The man did not shy away from calling out society’s ironies, lies and hypocrisies. 

I might not agree with all of his views, or his politics, but I really enjoyed reading about what he had to say. You can expect discussions around:

Greenpeace. Fossil fuels and our irresponsible, Earth-destroying, consumption of them.

“Guesser” politicians and the constitution. Kurt Vonnegut is fearless in his socialist leanings and his criticisms of  politicians – Stalin and Mao included.

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution… Only nut cases want to be President. –p.102

The news. Only Chicago’s In These Times gave Vonnegut hope for our news cycles.


War, the military and modern weaponry. Kurt Vonnegut versus weapons of mass destruction. 

They [soldiers] are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas. –p.72


Racism and sexism and many other isms…

History and family.

 There have never been any ‘Good Old Days’, there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me. I just got here.” -p.131

Technology and the Meaning of Life.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. -p.62


Writing tips and how he got into comedy/satire. 

Rules only take us so far, even good rules. –p.134

You can’t really misfire with a tragic scene. It’s bound to be moving if all the right elements are present. But a joke is like building a mousetrap from scratch. You have to work pretty hard to make the thing snap when it’s supposed to snap.” -p.128


Be prepared to be wowed by these essays… To dispair and to laugh out loud!

Some books recommended by Vonnegut:

  1. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
  2. Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville
  3. The Tin Men – Michael Frayn
  4. The Mysterious Stranger – Mark Twain

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut wanted to write a book about the bombing of Dresden during World War Two, a book which didn’t glorify war… He succeeded.

This isn’t an Autobiography, although it contains elements of that (most notably during the first chapter and at end of the book). No, this is a Science Fiction novel – the  main character, Billy Pilgrim, is kidnapped by aliens and routinely becomes “unstuck in time”.

While reading Slaughterhouse-Five you’re never quite sure what will come next in the narrative. The majority of the book focuses on Billy’s experiences during World War Two, though.


Razor sharp; satirical; and completely absurd. Delivers everything it was supposed to and more…

Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut


    Publisher’s Synopsis:

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to humanity. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. Writer Jonah’s search for its whereabouts leads him to Hoenikker’s three eccentric children, to an island republic in the Caribbean where the religion of Bokononism is practised, to love and to insanity. Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global destruction is a funny and frightening satire on the end of the world and the madness of mankind.

    My Review:

Cat’s Cradle is a cynical, comedic, witty, dystopian view of the future, written in tight, economic prose.

From the very beginning of the novel, the reader is made aware that ‘Ice-Nine’ will eventually be the cause of a huge, end-of-the-world scenario and within the plot Vonnegut presents so many obvious opportunities for Ice-Nine’s release into the world, that when the act finally arrives – in the last 25 pages – it almost feels like a relief. In other words, this entire story reads like an anti-weapons-of-mass-destruction manifesto as it seems designed to persuade the reader that if you make such a thing, eventually someone will use it. The other strong message here, is that war is a huge waste of human life:

They [soldiers] are murdered children…. And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children [dead soldiers] of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.”   p.182

Vonnegut also spends quite a few lines satirising the roles of politics, and of religion, in society.

Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth [poverty] was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies…. He asked McCabe [his friend the President] to outlaw him and his religion, too, in order to give the religious life of the people more zest, more tang…. And [so] McCabe and Bokonon paid a terrible price in agony for the happiness of the people – McCabe knowing the agony of the tyrant and Bokonon knowing the agony of the saint.”   pp.123-5

I found Bokonon’s invented religion great fun to read about. His teachings include advice such as “peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God”, information on the practice of boko-maru (the touching of two people’s feet, soul to soul) and other religious rites. The religious terminology is detailed and somewhat endlessforma, granfalloon, stuppa, calypso etc – but I didn’t actually mind that.

“We will touch our feet. yes,

Yes, for all we’re worth,

And we will love each other, yes,

Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.”

Somewhat predictably – because without this approach, Kurt Vonnegut would have found it much harder to mock society and to amuse us – there aren’t any characters in Cat’s Cradle, there are only caricatures. We meet a pushy, entrepreneurial American businessman; a scientist with poor social/life skills; and an extravagant and somewhat insane dictator, for instance. Still, nobody writes banter/dialogue quite like Kurt Vonnegut. Read just one of his books and you’ll want to read them all.

Jonah: “I’m not a drug salesman, I’m a writer.”

Julian: “What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”

Jonah: “I’ll accept that. Guilty as charged.”

Julian: “Have you ever seen anyone die of bubonic plague?”

Jonah: “That unhappiness has not been mine.”

Newt: “For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces…. No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s…”

Jonah: “And?”

Newt: “No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”