Explaining why Kurt Vonnegut’s books are still read in greater numbers than some of his contemporaries with higher reputations, like Norman Mailer and William Styron, Mailer’s literary executor, a guy named J. Michael Lennon, said that “Vonnegut was the American Mark Twain. He even looked liked him.”
I’m hoping that Lennon misspoke and what he meant to say was that Vonnegut was the modern Mark Twain. (There are some striking resemblances: imagination, humor, pessimism, populism. It has to be admitted that Twain towers over Vonnegut in every category.)
If not, I guess there are two possibilities. Norman Mailer’s literary executor doesn’t know much about American literature (does that make his job easier?) or he knows some dreadful secret about America’s greatest novelist. Is there a Scots-Canadian skeleton rattling in Huck Finn’s closet?