American author Kurt Vonnegut passed away this week at age 84. He lived in New York City, but was once a resident of our own Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While there have been official obituaries (more and more) in the press this week, it didn’t seem they quite did justice to the man, at least as I’d been thinking about him this year. Cat’s Cradle and Galapagos are two of my favorite books. Yet his last book was a memoir of sort: A Man Without a Country, and I’d like to present some of his quotes from that here, which given Vonnegut’s recurring focus on the future of humanity (both in fiction and now non-fiction) are timely on the eve of the National Day for Climate Action (there are all kinds of public events tommorow around the country). What was particularly striking to me is that Vonnegut announced in that book that he gave up on humanity at the end of his life, in his own cynical yet funny way. When I read that last year I wanted to go straight to New York and tell him that it’s not too late for us, there still is hope. And hope there is: this is the week that Massachusetts and other states successfully sued the Bush Environmental Protection Agency to start regulating carbon dioxide and global warming, an issue clearly important to Vonnegut in his memoir. And there’s another suit still pending for mercury pollution. Throughout Vonnegut’s last book, it seems he is keenly aware of his coming mortality, and he has some things he would like us to hear about life, and maybe even some things to laugh at as well.
On the flip side – a few quotes from his recent memoir: