Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review: Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut

This collection of short stories by the American writer Kurt Vonnegut reflect his visceral disgust at war, which developed during his World War II experience as a prisoner of war disposing of the corpses left after the British and United States air forces destroyed Dresden in February of 1945. I'd read two of his novels, Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, a long time ago. Slaughterhouse Five has been made into a movie.

In any short story collection, each reader will like some and dislike some. My favorites were "Great Day" and "The Commandant's Desk." The style, in its satirical humor, reminded me of Mark Twain, who opposed United States imperialism.

After listening to this book, I thought about how, in the last 25 years, United States popular culture has gone totally in the tank for militarism. When I was growing up in the late 1970s and 1980s, my image of the United States military was humorous bordering on buffoonish. Think Beetle Bailey, M*A*S*H and Stripes. Now, the National Football League, other professional sports leagues and our national teams in international competitions inundate us with militaristic spectacle. You can't escape the noise from jet fighter "Thunder Overs" whatever city in which you live. Military personnel in movies and TV are for the most part extremely competent and trustworthy. In video games, you can kill endless numbers of foreign dark-skinned enemies, but you can't once pretend to be one of them killing Americans.

I'm not certain, but the last good anti-war message in a popular network TV show might have been the 1992 "Nuts to War (Part 1 & Part 2)" from the series "Dinosaurs."

I listened to the audio book read by Rip Torn. The printed volume contains "enigmatic drawings and epigraphs by Vonnegut himself."