Kurt Vonnegut died last week, and it’s interesting to think what it means when Larry Burkhead got almost as many search requests as Mr. Vonnegut the past couple of days. Larry Burkhead, however, did not beat Kurt Vonnegut; and, both left Paris Hilton in the Search Engine Dust.
One thing Americans share, besides the playoffs, is being assigned to read something written by Kurt Vonnegut in high school. Maybe not Palm Sunday, though — and it’s in Palm Sunday that Vonnegut grades some of his own works, explaining that he competes not with other writers but instead, compares “myself with myself.” Here’s how he critiqued some of his books:
Cat’s Cradle: A+
The Sirens of Titan: A
Mother Night: A
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A
Player Piano: B
Welcome to the Monkey House: B-
Palm Sunday: C
Breakfast of Champions: C
Happy Birthday, Wanda June: D
Maybe Kurt Vonnegut has something here. Of course, most people don’t grade themselves – which is why the law steps in, placing upon all of us a “reasonable man” standard. (Actually, we can all thank Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. for this bright idea.)
In tort law (think lawsuits involving stuff other than contracts), jurors are told to measure the defendant against what a reasonable person would do in his shoes. For doctors, lawyers, architects, and the like, the standard is what a reasonable person in that profession would do in the particular circumstance.
It’s not that high a standard to meet, really. It’s the Average Joe Standard. Which is a much lower bar than the standard that Kurt Vonnegut placed upon himself, and probably lower than the standard that Tiger Woods requires of himself, as well.
If you are involved in litigation, or may become involved in a lawsuit, and have questions about such things as the reasonable man standard, please feel free to ask questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.