f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 18, 2006

does Overlawyered know about Vonnegut?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:21 am

Walter Olson has been all over the Tobacco Lawsuit Industry at his

Overlawyered.com website for years.  So, I was surprised today —

while listening to Kurt Vonnegut‘s latest book, A Man Without a Country 

(Seven Stories Press, Sept. 2005) — to hear a new legal theory for suing

big tobacco that has not been exposed yet at Overlawyered.  Vonnegut

explains (at pp 3940):



“I’m going to tell you some news.  …  Here?s the news: I am

going to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company,

manufacturers of  cigarettes, for a billion bucks!  Starting when

I was only twelve years old, I have never chain-smoked anything

but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the

package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me.  But

I am now eighty-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing

I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people

on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.”

[update: An anonymously curious reader wonders whether Kurt

borrowed the “three most powerful men” line from Chris Rock,

or vice versa.]

Of course, after today’s Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Oregon,

B&W might force Vonnegut to mitigate damages, by moving to Oregon

and finding a willing doctor.   [And see Vonnegut’s novel from 2001,

God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian.] Still, I count on Walter to keep me up

to date on issues like this, so I’m a little disappointed.

tiny check  Speaking of disappointment and broken promises, this

thin little volume (declared by its publisher to be “The first

major book to appear from Kurt Vonnegut in nearly a decade.”)

did not have enough new or unique wit or wisdom to be worth

my 2.5 hours of listening time, and does not deserve to be called

a “major book,” by an author who has indeed written many such

books.   The best one-liners could have filled a couple pages.  My

main theory of liability, however, would not be against the publisher

for over-touting, but would be against Kurt Vonnegut for breaking his

promise to write no more.”   Hey, you never know.


afterthought (10 AM):  Maybe I’m being a little too tough on old Kurt.

Part of my problem with the book is that he says so many things

that are simply common sense to me — opinions I’ve held for a long

time.  Two good examples:

(1) “There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t

know what can be done to fix it.  This is  Only nut cases want

to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly

disturbed people ran for class president.”  (at 101 to 102)




(2) ” . . . vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes.
But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten

Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course

that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand

that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted

anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed

are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break.” (at 98)

[see our treatment of the Sermon on the Mount here, here, there,

and here]




tiny check  On the other hand, I must admit that I smiled broadly at

Vonnegut’s mention of Schenectady, my adopted hometown: 

“I got classified as a science fiction writer simply because I

wrote about Schenectady, New York. My first book, Player Piano 

[1952], was about Schenectady. There are huge factories in

Schenectady and nothing else. I and my associates were engineers,

physicists, chemists, and mathematicians. And when I wrote about

the General Electric Company and Schenectady, it seemed a

fantasy of the future to critics who had never seen the place.”

[emphasis added]

Of course, GE is no longer headquartered in Schenectady, and has about

5% of its peak number of employees stationed here.  I wonder what Kurt

would think about that.  Talk about nothing here.  Talk about futuristic.

Now that Walter has a heads-up on the “still living after all these years” cause of

action, I’m counting on him to keep us posted. 


news of his death

the cigarette smoke rises

straight up








goblins at the door

in the darkness behind them

a cigarette flares


       John Stevenson from Some of the Silence 









the slow wobble

of a smoke ring


     ed markowski 





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