Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Vonnegut Interviewer Missed The Point

David Nason, The Australian's New York correspondent, recently interviewed Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of this country's older (83) men of letters, and made a mess of most of what Vonnegut said.

Vonnegut's terse observations spoken publicly or in print are frequently cynical and dark, and rarely are they brushed thoughtlessly off the cuff. Such comments are almost always a signal that Kurt Vonnegut has thought about something longer and in more ways than the average person, or in the case of David Nason, foreign correspondent.

Nason asked about terrorists. Vonnegut's response:

  • Terrorists are brave
  • Madness is a matter of perspective
  • It is sweet and honorable to die for one's beliefs
  • Terrorist are fighting for their culture and self-respect
  • The seconds preceding a terrorist's suicide must be an "amazing high" for that person
I sense no value judgements or defense of terrorism in those statements. What did Nason make of the statements? He makes his point by asking us to answer a question (nice rhetorical device, but here it is a copout):
Is the author of one of the great anti-war books of the 20th century seriously saying that terrorists who kill civilians are "sweet and honourable"?

Then Nason makes his summary statement, which doesn't address the question he left floating like a lost balloon:
Vonnegut has been many things: a grandmaster of American literature; a man who worked hard to support his family; a soldier who fought for his country. But
now he's old and he doesn't want to live any more. You only have to read his book to understand that. And because he can't find anything worthwhile to keep him alive, he finds defending terrorists somehow amusing

I just don't see the connection. Vonnegut's statements went over Nason's head. He missed the point.

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