Kurt Vonnegut, Uneccentric

Nov 4 2012 @ 12:09pm

Drew Toal reviews the forthcoming Kurt Vonnegut: Letters:

In his introduction to Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, Dan Wakefield, the book's editor and a longtime Vonnegut karass member, writes of the late author's aspiration to be a "cultivated eccentric." Over the course of six decades of letters to family, friends, admirers, detractors and fellow writers, Vonnegut shows himself to be so much more, both in terms of ambition and accomplishment. In fact, viewed in its totality, the collection — by turns hilarious, heartbreaking and mundane — is striking in just how uneccentric it shows the author to be. Vonnegut himself is a near-perfect example of the same flawed, wonderful humanity that he loved and despaired over his entire life.

Shaun Usher features two letters from the book. From one defending his son's refusal to fight in the Vietnam War in 1967:

This attitude toward killing is a matter between my God and me. I do not participate much in organized religion. I have read the Bible a lot. I preach, after a fashion. I write books which express my disgust for people who find it easy and reasonable to kill.

We say grace at meals, taking turns. Every member of my family has been called upon often to thank God for blessings which have been ours. What Mark is doing now is in the service of God, Whose Son was exceedingly un-warlike.

There isn't a grain of cowardice in this. Mark is a strong, courageous young man. What he is doing requires more guts than I ever had—and more decency.