There's something undeniably eerie about listening to Kurt Vonnegut's 1973 novel
Breakfast of Champions
- he says it's a 50th birthday present to himself - and realizing it's just as relevant today as then.
It has such glorious rants, like the one about Veterans Day, which he still reveres as Armistice Day.
On that day in 1918, "millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one other," he writes. "I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember clearly when God spoke to mankind."
Armistice Day, he says, is "sacred. Veterans Day is not."
He carries on about the "evil nonsense" taught to U.S. schoolchildren - such as that 1492 was the date North America was discovered, when "actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them."
And so on. What's not to love?
Maybe that's the reason so many of his books are still available and coming out on audio.
This month, Brilliance released an MP3 recording of Hocus Pocus (7 hours, $24.95), read by George Ralph.
It's the fictional autobiography of a soldier who was in charge of the evacuation of Saigon at the close of the Vietnam War. In 2001, he's arrested for helping 10,000 convicts escape from prison.
Brilliance's Eileen Hutton thinks Vonnegut resonates today "because our lives have been made more - not less - complicated by all the layers of technology and the glut of information constantly swirling around us. He made no secret of his dislike for the way science and technology can dehumanize life in our civilization."
She recalls him saying in an interview that "life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information."
She remembers thinking then that things were only going to get worse, which makes me worry that Vonnegut must be awfully depressed by now.
Last November, Caedmon released Essential Vonnegut, a one-hour program ($12.95 on CD) of interview snippets conducted by poet and critic - and, clearly, a close buddy of Vonnegut's - Walter Miller in 1973, 1981 and 2006.
It was a tad insiderish, but I doubt avid fans will mind.
Earlier last year, Caedmon also released Welcome to the Monkey House (7 hours, $39.95 on CD). The collection of shorter works is read by Dylan Baker, Bill Irwin, Tony Roberts, David Strathairn and Maria Tucci.
And that's not all. God Bless you Dr. Kevorkian, Bagombo Snuff Box, and his autobiographical A Man Without A Country also are on audio.
Want more? A few years ago, I was mesmerized by Ethan Hawke's narration of Slaughterhouse Five, in which Billy Pilgrim survives the bombing of Dresden and is abducted by aliens from Tralfamadore.
It's based on Vonnegut's own experience (well, the Dresden part anyway), and years later he notes, "I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee."
He is the master at combining outrage with wisdom and farce.
In Breakfast of Champions, which Stanley Tucci reads with delicious cunning, the obscure author Kilgore Trout visits a Midwest arts festival.
"Oh, Mr. Trout," the hotel clerk gushes. "Teach us to sing and dance and laugh and cry. We've tried to survive so long on money and sex and envy and real estate and football and basketball and automobiles and television and alcohol and sawdust and broken glass."
Trout, disheveled, the pockets of his oversized and threadbare tuxedo bulging with mothballs, is incredulous. "Open your eyes," he says. "Would a man nourished by beauty look like this? You have nothing but desolation and desperation here."
"I see exactly what I expect to see," the clerk retorts. "I see a man who is terribly wounded because he has dared to pass through the fires of truth to the other side."
For me, Trout is Vonnegut.