Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.
Vonnegut’s last interview lingers
By Drew Gallagher
For The Free Lance-Star
THE writer Kurt Vonnegut passed away in 2007 at the age of 84, and the world is a lesser place because of his passing. It’s selfish on my part to have wished him to live longer (forever) because it seems that what Vonnegut wanted more than anything else as he got older was to push up daisies. As a lifelong cigarette smoker, he often joked that he was going to sue the tobacco industry because they had told him that cigarettes would kill him, and after six decades of smoking, he was still alive and pissed about it.
“Kurt Vonnegut, The Last Interview and Other Conversations” is a compilation of six interviews that he gave throughout his life. Why these particular six were chosen from the hundreds that were published is unclear, but the title stems from the inclusion of the last published interview Vonnegut gave, about a month before he died. The conclusion of the interview is pure Vonnegut: “But I gotta go. I’m not well. Good luck.” From someone else, that closing might’ve been an eerie portent, but from Vonnegut, he would’ve likely found it to be an apropos epitaph for himself and for all of humanity.
For fans of Vonnegut, we will cling to any memory or any “new” release that will bathe us, however briefly, in his genius, so there is much to enjoy in the slender “The Last Interview.” He is witty and heartsick for the world, but Ultimately the reader is left with the undeniable impression that the world was better because of him.
The opportunities to extol Vonnegut in these pages are going to be, obviously, limited by his passing and by the fact that just about everything he ever wrote is in print somewhere. So for readers of Vonnegut, old and new alike, I would encourage you next time you’re walking downtown to stick your head in Riverby Books, or The Griffin Bookshop, or Read All Over and see if they have some Vonnegut on the shelves (a paperback will do just fine). In fact, I’m going to stick a paperback copy of his collection of essays and opinions, “Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons” (speech on page 91 is pure gold) at Riverby—and it is free to the first customer who goes to the counter and asks for it. Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
Vonnegut was once asked what he would like a reader to take away from reading his books. He joked and said: “This is the greatest man who ever lived.” Maybe not the greatest, but if there is one wish in this world I’d like to impart to my own children, it is that they read Kurt Vonnegut, because he will make them smile and he will make them better people.
Drew Gallagher is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.
KURT VONNEGUT: The Last Interview: and Other Conversations
By Tom McCartan
(Melville House, $15.95, 176 pp.)
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