The Library of America is a treasure trove of literature. One could do no better than to peruse its offerings when searching for a thoughtful gift for one’s literate friends and offspring —it’s the Great American Backlist. The books are well bound and produced, often with special features and illuminating commentary. The only quibble one (well, me) might have is that type size is in the 9 or 10 point range. Alas, that is what reading glasses are for.
The really good news (here I betray a strong bias) is that the LOA has issued Kurt Vonnegut- Novels & Stories 1963–1973 (Cat’s Cradle • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater • Slaughterhouse-Five • Breakfast of Champions • Stories) edited by Sidney Offit. Not too be smug or patronizing but if I need to introduce Kurt Vonnegut to you —well, you probably wandered here by accident (you are welcome to stay).
Here’s a morsel from the early section of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (or Pearls Before Swine) published in 1965:
…the folly of the Founding Fathers… those sadly recent ancestors [was that they ] had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited. This oversight was engendered by a weak kneed sympathy for those who loved expensive things, and by feeling that he continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no third, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone.
Noah and a few like him perceived that the continent was indeed finite, and that venal office holders, legislators in particular could be persuaded to toss up great hunks of it for grabs, and to toss them in such a way as have them where Noah and his kind were standing.Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest and industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked for a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American Dream went belly up. turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited , filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.
E Pluribus Unum is surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasure that have been denied the many.An even more interactive motto, in light of the history made by the Noah Rosewaters, might be: Grab much too much, or you’ll get nothing at all.
Written in 1965, people!
Currently reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Thank You Mr Rosewater.