September 13, 2005

recent read #2

Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut.

It’s a hodge-podge of random musings by the author, on everything from Vonnegut family history to crass jokes that re-occur as motifs throughout the book. The premise is what you might expect from Vonnegut: "...a timequake, a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum, made everybody and everything do exactly what they'd done during past decades, for good or ill, a second time..." Vonnegut fans will recognize the standard Vonnegutian elements of the work: frequent didactic musings on love and war; the inclusion of sci-fi book-mill Kilgore Trout, who makes an appearance in nearly every Vonnegut novel; and authorial intrusion (Vonnegut himself barges into the novel to meet Trout, his life-long alter ego).

The work, intended to be Vonnegut’s last novel, is certainly not his best, but it does shed light on Vonnegut’s works and on Vonnegut himself. The author, through the voice of Trout, provides an explanation of both the style and themes of his works:

“If I’d wasted my time creating characters,” Trout said, “I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter: irresistible forces in nature, and cruel inventions, and cockamamie ideals and governments and economies that make heroes and heroines alike feel like something the cat drug in.”

Vonnegut, who has earned a reputation as a hilariously cynical smart-aleck, betrays his fundamentally serious nature. Writers like himself he calls “bashers”—those go “go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one.”

“Bashers, while ostensibly making sentence after sentence as efficient as possible, may actually be breaking down seeming doors and fences, cutting their ways through seeming barbed-wire entanglements, under fire and in an atmosphere of mustard gas, in search of answers to these eternal questions: ‘What in heck should we be doing? What in heck is really going on?’”

Vonnegut’s answers to those questions have remained the same throughout the course of his career. His answer, slightly edited to appease the censors, is: “life is a crock of rubbish” (God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater); and because life is so and because we have nothing but love and our imaginations to make it better, he urges us to, “for goodness sake, be nice” (Slaughterhouse Five).

With that last thought in mind, I’ll refrain from including the unkind remarks I was going to make about the books rambling style and the scads of rabbit trails the author so persistently follows. I’ll conclude by recommending two of his previous works, Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five , both of which are must-reads for any student of postmodern fiction. You're more likely to enjoy Timequake if you have already acquired a taste for Vonnegut with those other works.

Posted by jonsligh at 01:50 PM | Comments (6)

September 05, 2005

a few of my lovely friends

BS- Jess House.jpg

Posted by jonsligh at 08:34 AM | Comments (10)