God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

A.O. Scott in the New York Times:

Scot450His liberalism grows out of some principles that can only be called conservative, like the belief in community and extended family that has become one of the big themes of his later work. He remains unimpressed by technology or the other trappings of progress, and he remains one of America’s leading critics of evolution – not of the theory, mind you, but of the practice, which has left us far too clever and vain for our own good.

It will hardly come as a shock that Vonnegut – who identifies himself as “a lifelong Northern Democrat in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt tradition, a friend of the working stiffs,” and therefore unapologetically “sappy” – has a low opinion of the current American administration and its policies, and “Man Without a Country” has already joined the ranks of the Bush-bashing best sellers that compete with liberal-bashing best sellers for dominance in our overheated climate of opinion. But Vonnegut is much funnier, and much crabbier, than the cable-bred polemicists, and smarter too. At times, he may slide toward Andy Rooneyesque or Grandpa Simpsonesque crotchetiness, but mostly, like his literary ancestor Mark Twain, his crankiness is good-humored and sharp-witted, and aimed at well-defended soft spots of hypocrisy and arrogance.

On Nov. 11 he will turn 83, and since he has no expectation of a heavenly perch from which to look down and eavesdrop on his friends, it is best that we appreciate him while he’s still around.

More here.