Essays By Kurt Vonnegut

Essays By Kurt Vonnegut-36
, “is reread him at thirty-eight.” If that was true, I wondered as I opened the first two volumes of the Library of America’s ongoing series of the complete novels, then what of Vonnegut at a decade older still?The two are linked, of course, as items on the syllabus of adolescent male Well, if I’ve grown older and more respectable, then so has Kurt Vonnegut.

, “is reread him at thirty-eight.” If that was true, I wondered as I opened the first two volumes of the Library of America’s ongoing series of the complete novels, then what of Vonnegut at a decade older still?The two are linked, of course, as items on the syllabus of adolescent male Well, if I’ve grown older and more respectable, then so has Kurt Vonnegut.

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“It’s the ), Vonnegut knew about pushing an audience’s buttons.

Later, when he taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he won his students’ reluctant allegiance by eschewing aesthetic pieties and teaching them how to grab a reader’s attention.

(Shields’s biography is badly written and none too penetrating in its literary insights, but it seems to have been thoroughly researched and is, in any case, the only one we have so far.) After a few increasingly sour years puffing nuclear power and home appliances—“Progress Is Our Most Important Product,” went the company slogan—Vonnegut decided to imagine what the future General Electric was trying to create would actually look like.

As its title suggests, describes a society in which the vast majority of people have been rendered obsolete by machines.

Each knows something about the other that the other doesn’t know about himself.

“Don’t you.” Rumfoord’s religion (with Constant as Christ) is called the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.Or as he puts it in , “Gimcrack religions were big business.” The Age of Aquarius surely came as no surprise to him—the age of crystals and gurus and mystical hucksters.Charles Manson and Jim Jones surely came as no surprise, and neither did L.Beneath its darkness and sadness and savagery, the novel unfolds as a continuous experience of wonder. “Things, gentlemen, are ripe for a phony Messiah,” says a character in .Vonnegut saw our spiritual anxiety, in the postwar chaos, and as a former public relations man, he knew our mass gullibility.It poses Vonnegut’s essential question: What are people for? The story moves from one intensely spotlit moment to the next, one idea to the next, without delay or filler.The prose is equally efficient, with a scalding syncopated wit: “‘I told her that you and she were to be married on Mars.’ He shrugged.Now Vonnegut is making up the rules as he goes along.Like the millionaire Winston Niles Rumfoord, with whom the book begins, the story jumps around apparently at will.People want illusions, insists, and they are abjectly grateful to anyone who can offer them.Constant is trapped on Mercury with another man, Boaz.

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