Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I have only read a collection of short stories and 1.4 of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s novels (Slaughterhouse-Five with Breakfast of Champions currently in the mix), but I love them all. His satirical approach to describing war and America is something I simply haven't experienced otherwise. We take ourselves very seriously here, which is why I'm not surprised by the friends of mine over time who have enjoyed Vonnegut's writing. It's cutting, witty, and matter-of-fact. Moreso, his cuts on American society in the 20th century carry truth; which is really the point of satire, isn't it?

I was going to list satire on its own as the One Awesome Thing today, but that goes against the point of this series. Satire is defined as "in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement." This pointing out of shortcomings would do the opposite of injecting positivity into our lives, such as the 21st century's most prominent satirists do in most cases (i.e. Jon Stewart, Seth MacFarlane, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone).

Vonnegut's satire, however, provokes thought. It calls to mind the things about American society that we can change in our day-to-day lives. Things like self-centeredness, inconsideration, and over-consumption are addressed with witty humor in a way that makes you laugh at yourself and think "is this really what someone would describe to someone who had never been to America?"

These sort of wake-up calls are necessary to get us going, but to also make light of some serious matters that could easily bring us down. There's a blurred line between negative and positive satire, but Vonnegut does a good job of erring on the positive, whether he intended to or not.

1 comment:

  1. YES. I've only read The Sirens Of Titan so far, but it was fantastic, and reading more Vonnegut is on my list of things to do this summer.