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Bob Alexander: God (or whoever) Bless You Mr. Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut47 years ago I bailed out of a Medieval English Literature class just in time and took a Modern Satire class instead. I knew I'd get an easy “A” because how hard could it be? Read a couple of books, answer questions about the books I'd just read, and then I'd maintain a high grade average.

Guys that didn't keep their grades up were destined to become soldiers instead of students. Without a high enough grade point average it could get pretty drafty going to college in those days.

The assigned reading list was fairly long. I can only remember two of the books from the stack I brought back from the bookstore because they changed my life. To be more precise they changed the way my brain worked. They were The Magic Christian by Terry Southern, and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. Both books are about money.

The Magic Christian was published in 1959 but it could have been written during any time in human history because people have always made fools of themselves for money. God Bless You Mr. Rosewater is a uniquely American story because it points out with laser-like precision how fortunes were originally made in the U.S. by psychopathic opportunists, and then maintained by cadres of sociopathic lawyers.

The problem with writing about satire or comedy is that it's a losing proposition. As Mark Twain wrote, “Explaining humor is a lot like dissecting a frog, you learn a lot in the process, but in the end you kill it.”


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