Over the weekend, I re-read Loree Rackstraw’s tender memoir Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him. I’ve mentioned the book on this blog a few times, it’s an absolutely charming read and certainly a book that will be seen, in time, to be one of the most important works that has been, or will ever be written about the great novelist. The reason for this is simple: None of the rest of Vonnegut’s biographers have slept with him and none of them knew the man for 40 years
For now though, the book is unfairly unknown except by the most hardcore Vonnegut fans (you can buy it for a penny on Amazon). Rackstraw met Vonnegut in 1965. She was a divorced single mother and second year student and he was a married writer teaching at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop MFA program. Slaughterhouse-Five was still a few years away from publication, although his star had been rising for some time. They had an affair that turned into a lifelong friendship and Rackstraw’s book contains significant excerpts from Vonnegut’s deeply tender (and funny) letters covering the four decades of their relationship. “I realized I possessed quite a remarkable chronological story of his life,” Rackstraw said. “We were very close. It was a friendship unlike any I’ve had with anyone.”
Seriously, if you’re at all interested in what Kurt Vonnegut was like as a person, Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him is a book you’ll want to pick up. I’m happy to plug it on DM again.
But as I got to the book’s final pages, I noticed something interesting and that was a mention of one of Vonnegut’s last major television appearances, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2005. Vonnegut was then 82 and promoting his then recent book, A Man Without a Country. Although the effects of advancing age are apparent on his body as he walks slowly to his chair, his mind was still quite sharp as he sits down to offer his wisdom on the topic of evolution. The great writer then proceeds to give George Bush a rather spectacular back-handed compliment…
Wunderbar stuff, but with these two meeting face to face, what else could it have been? After Vonnegut absolutely excoriates Donald Rumsfeld, Stewart quips “I’m very sorry to see you’ve lost your edge.”