Nason’s interview is
among the most vicious hatchet jobs by a newspaper reporter in recent
memory. It sneers at Vonnegut for opposing George W Bush and the Iraq
war; for dressing badly and being dishevelled; for being depressed; and
for empathising with terrorists. Just in case anyone missed the point –
that Vonnegut, far from being a great novelist is a bitter lunar leftie
who’s to be pitied rather than respected – Nason also wrote a news
story at the front of the paper under the heading “US author lauds
suicide bombers as ‘very brave'”:

One of the greatest living US writers has praised
terrorists as very brave people and used drug culture slang to describe
the “amazing high” suicide bombers must feel before blowing themselves
up.

Kurt Vonnegut, author of the 1969 anti-war classic Slaughterhouse Five,
made the provocative remarks during an interview in New York for his
new book, Man Without a Country, a collection of writings critical of
US President George W Bush.

Vonnegut, 83, has been a strong
opponent of Mr Bush and the US-led war in Iraq, but until now has
stopped short of defending terrorism…

What’s wrong
with a novelist speculating that suicide bombers would experience an
amazing high? Does the claim that suicide bombers are brave imply a
defence of their crusade or a desire for them to succeed? Or is he just
doing what novelists do – what Atticus Finch asked of his daughter
Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird – and putting on someone else’s
shoes and walking around for a while? And in what world is describing a
sensation as an “amazing high” tantamount to descending into “drug
culture slang”?

If it’s possible, Nason sinks to even greater
depths in a piece that attempts to ridicule and dismiss the man he
describes in the news pages as “one of the greatest living US writers.”
“Kurt Vonnegut – Why I detest George Bush and admire suicide bombers”
(note the headline) concludes with this extraordinary passage in which
Nason sniffs out his angle and homes in on Vonnegut’s attitude to
terrorism:

I ask one more question: “But terrorists believe in twisted religious things don’t they? So surely that can’t be right?”

“Well,
they’re dying for their own self-respect Vonnegut fires back. “It’s a
terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It’s [like]
your culture is nothing, your race is nothing, you’re nothing.”

There’s
another long pause and Vonnegut’s eyes suggest his mind has wandered
off somewhere. Then, suddenly, he turns back to me and says: “It must
be an amazing high.”

“What?” I ask. “Strapping a bomb to
yourself,” he says. “You would know death is going to be painless, so
the anticipation… must be an amazing high.”

At this point I
give up. I can’t be bothered asking him about any of the things I’d
thought about: his mother’s suicide, how he raised his sister’s kids,
the great writers he knew and partied with, how he looks back on
Dresden.

Vonnegut has been many things: a grandmaster of
American literature; a man who worked hard to support his family; a
soldier who fought for his country.

But now he’s old and doesn’t
want to live any more. You only have to read his book to understand
that. And because he can’t find anything worthwhile to keep him alive
he finds defending terrorists somehow amusing.

On
the strength of one lunch in which Vonnegut rubbed him up the wrong
way, a journeyman reporter judges and dismisses one of the most
acclaimed novelists of this era. While Nason’s story tells us little
about Vonnegut, it certainly says a lot about its author and the
newspaper in which it appeared.