I've always found Kurt Vonnegut the man, more interesting than Kurt Vonnegut the writer. Bill Kauffman's new essay for First Principles does little to change this.
Of course I do not mean that as a knock on Mr. Kauffman or Mr. Vonnegut. Quite to the contrary. In fact Kauffman does an excellent job showcasing the relevance of Vonnegut the character, even as he seems somewhat unsure of Vonnegut the novelist. It is nice to know that I am not alone in this assessment.
I remember reading Slapstick and Slaughter-House Five years ago and thinking they were perfectly suitable books, with wildly inflated reputations. That said, if a writer is to have an inflated reputation, I prefer it be one who abhors militarism and understands the importance of family and tradition. Socialist or not, I'd take a thousand Vonnegut's over one Phillip Roth, and on scale it is probably a good thing that young, angsty teens, still stumble into Barnes & Noble looking to pick up his books, even if they don't pay nearly as much attention to the far more interesting atheistic, cynic, Gore Vidal.