Monday, September 17, 2007

Five specific things I remember about five Kurt Vonnegut books I don't really remember

Kurt Vonnegut (totally RIP) has been my favorite author since I became a teenager. With the exception of Happy Birthday Wanda June, a copy of which I was never able to find (granted, I didn't look too hard, but regardless), I exhausted his canon before turning 18. It wasn't so much that I was a tremendous reader back then; I didn't read nearly as much by any other author, and to tell you the truth only finished one single book I was assigned by a high school English class (two if you count Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House, but I'd read it years before so I don't. The other was a book about boxing in South Africa, and it was awesome and had badass fight scenes so I stuck it out). Basically I was just a really big Kurt Vonnegut fan, and after I finished one of his novels I tended to want more.

I recently reread my copy of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, one of the first books of his I ever read, and was surprised as hell that I remembered so little about it. Granted, it has been close to a decade, but I realized soon after beginning it that I didn't have a clue as to how it ended, and save for a few choice bits there were large chunks throughout that were almost entirely foreign to me... It was sorta weird.

I thought about it some more, and it turns out that there are a number of other books I've done an even worse job at retaining details about than that one. Here are five Kurt Vonnegut books that I read and enjoyed years ago, and the only things that I can really remember about them today.

Deadeye Dick: Somewhere at the end, someone tells the main character (Deadeye Dick, I guess) that the Ku Klux Klan is secretly in charge of the United States, and cultivates their image as powerless nutjob extremists so that nobody will suspect them of anything.

Hocus Pocus: Someone's mother, who has some sort of brain disease or illness or something where she's kind of dim, calls a fish "humongous," and this choice of words is remarked upon as unusual. Influenced my frequent use of this word to this day.

Sirens of Titan
: There are some statues on a desert island on one of Saturn's moons (Titan). No idea what they were doing there.

Player Piano: A woman gets caught on a future train for many days because she misses her stop and it won't let her off because of dystopian efficiency.

: People turn into seals because the world ends. There is a little computer that quotes poetry. (this is actually all I really understood about this book, possibly my first encounter with Vonnegut, when I initially read it)

I've got a lot of re-reading to do.


Karen said...

I think they were dolphins instead of seals in Galapagos... (?)

But don't worry -- I have also read all these books and it turns out I don't remember anything about any of them either! Except for Mr. Rosewater which has the drawings in it. Right?

Matt Deckard said...

I would definitely reread Hocus Pocus if I were you. It's one of my favorites from Vonnegut.

kostia said...

I love Hocus Pocus too. That and Cat's Cradle are the ones I always go back to and read over and over.

Kaitlin said...

No, the humans do evolve into seal like animals, as they are all descendants of that one asian lady's daughter who was covered in a light layer of gray fur. In the end, the evolved humans ended up losing their opposable thumbs to flippers so they could no longer do damage to the planet, and the poetry gadget got thrown into the ocean because it was annoying and absolutely useless in helping the people survive.

Anonymous said...

"There are some statues on a desert island on one of Saturn's moons (Titan). No idea what they were doing there."

They were there to point passing space aliens toward Earth so they would know where to get parts for somebody's spaceship. Something like that. I should read that book again, too.

Adam said...

Hahaha thank God for people nerdier than you, Joe, who can point your poor memories in the right direction-- after Sir V. died I read 7 of his books in one weekend (with surprisingly little overlap with you). He truly was an insightful and HI-larious writer.

A Man Without A County should be required reading for all Americans, but especially Texans (which I can say, having been born on Galveston Island).

P.S. Those statues on Titan were such a small part of the plot-- you didn't remember the big-ass dog that disappeared into static more?

jilly said...

I hear a lot of great stuff about "Cat's Cradle" and I don't know, I just couldn't get into it. The whole religion thing. "Welcome to the Monkey House" is awesome, however. Especially the story where everyone has to be equal, so pretty people have to walk around with bags on their heads and smart people have implants to keep them from thinking too much.

JD McGregor said...

Most recently reread Bluebeard (i won't spoil it by telling you what he keeps in the barn...), and Slapstick (i think he becomes the King of Manhattan).

doormatt246 said...

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess the boxing book was The Power of One by Bruce Courtenay, in which Peekay wants to be the featherweight champion of the world. If thats the case, the fight with the Nazi-dude at the mine was one of the best fights I have ever read.

Mene Tekel said...

I loved Slaughterhouse V. You've encouraged me to read some of his other books, possibly Cat's Cradle.

Papa Monkey said...

Vonnegut is my all time favorite author, and has been since I was 16. But I have the same problem, it's been decades since I have read many of the books and I have forgotten much of them. A Man Without a Country is probably one of the best books I have ever read. It's really more of a running essay (or set of them) on Vonnegut's perspective of the world, but a fantastic set of eassys. Hocus Pocus is great too.

Joe Mathlete said...

Cat's Cradle is the best book I've ever read; I've gone back to that one a number of times. Think I'll pick up Hocus Pocus or Sirens of Titan next. Honestly, I remember nothing but what I've said about those two... Disappearing dog doesn't ring a bell. Kind of sad.

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