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It is the despairing ridicule of a man who has given up trying to understand. The Watergate theme, such as it is, is limited to the following. Starbuck tells us that back in the s he was called on to testify about communists in government. Before the famous House Un-American Activities Committee Starbuck lists a number of colleagues who he knows were communists in the s buthave changed their views and present no threat to the American people.

Among these he mistakenly includes a colleague named Leland Clewes. Clewes in fact had never been a communist and tries to clear his name. Starbuck explains that the young assistant to Senator Joe McCarthy, one Richard Milhous Nixon, then spends two years hounding and investigating Clewes and eventually getting him convicted and sent to jail.

This drew Nixon into the public eye. This is why, a long time later, Starbuck finds himself offered a job at the Nixon White House. Throughout his time there he could hear people stomping about upstairs. And then, in , when police came to search the White House, some of the guilty staffers came rushing downstairs with several crates packed with cash.

But the cops searched even down here, found it, arrested Starbuck, and that was what he was tried and convicted and sent to gaol for, conspiracy to hide, defraud, illegal contributions etc.

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He takes the opportunity to name a number of the men around the table who would end up in prison. It is one joke and a list of names. For example, there is much more about is wife Ruth, her history, how they met and their life together, than there is about politics. Jewish, Ruth had been hidden for the first part of the war, but then discovered and sent to a concentration camp which she survived to be liberated by the Americans and Starbuck met her only hours after they had been requisitioned by an American army unit which needed a translator at a checkpoint.

Starbuck himself requisitioned her, took her to a good hotel, fed her up, and employed her as a translator for his work with the War Trials. He takes ten or so pages to describe their work in some detail, to paint a picture of her earnest pessimism, and the determination with which she sets up an interior design company once they return to American in Rosewater , and Slaughterhouse-Five.

While in prison, Fender also writes science fiction novels under another pseudonym, Frank X. Barlow p. There are other echoes of earlier techniques as well. Just to remind us that the same wacky nonsensicalist of the earlier experimental books is still there, lurking. And the spirit of the nonsensicalist emerges more and more as the book progresses. Partly because he remembers it all when, having just been released from prison in , Starbuck returns to the same hotel to see it much reduced, shabby and dingy and half boarded up.


In fact, the receptionist tells him, the entire area where the restaurant used to be has been converted into a porn movie cinema which specialises in gay porn, many of the movies climaxing with scenes of anal fisting, something which, unsurprisingly, shocks and horrifies the narrator p. There were tens of thousands of them in major cities throughout the country.

Ragged regiments of them had been produced accidentally, and to imaginable purpose, by the great engine of the economy. Another part of the machine was spitting out unrepentant murderers ten years old, and dope fiends, and child batterers and many other bad things.

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People claimed to be investigating. Unspecified repairs were to be made at some future time. They were both executed in the electric chair just after midnight on August 23, Vonnegut refers to them in the preface to the book, and the preface ends with a quote from Nicola Sacco writing to his year-old son Dante, a quote which went on to be turned into a song, and rallying cry for the Socialist cause in America. Towards the end of the book, the narrative stops altogether while Vonnegut gives an extended summary of the events surrounding the supposed crimes, trial and execution of the pair.

This chimes with the fact that Starbuck, although a Harvard man, was himself a student activist, and an actual member of the communist party. In fact she dies in his arms. At which point Starbuck is taken to court once again, and convicted of not reporting her death, fraud etc.

Fun Excerpt From New Book, Kurt Vonnegut and Me

And that is the story of this inveterate jailbird. Wells — the unnamed inventor and time traveller tells his dinner party guests the story of his adventure among the Eloi and the Morlocks in the year , The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. Lewis — baddies Devine and Weston kidnap Ransom and take him in their spherical spaceship to Malacandra aka Mars,. The novel focuses on the weird alternative world experienced by a group of inertials after a catastrophe on the moon.

And how can he get back to his storyline? You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Perhaps it was his failures and struggles as a copywriter and car dealer that so endeared him to those whose writing and work are at odds with one another.

Reed in an essay written specifically for this collection. A small, token example of this: Most authors who write about meeting Kurt for dinner or a drink mention that Kurt insisted on paying. Kurt would hate that last sentence, full of the punctuation mark he most despised. The semicolon! I present it here in its entirety:. I have just read your sneering, impossibly conceited attack on my dear brother in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, and now understand that your smiles during our meeting in Manchester last month were as friendly as those of Count Dracula.

Maybe you think you are funny, but you are as stupid as all the people who said Louis Pasteur was wrong about germs.

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England may not be much good at science any more, but she sure has the actors still. How delightfully Midwestern—how Hoosier—of Vonnegut to write this letter, one that, while defending Bernie, only briefly addresses the central conflict, one whose insults are of the kind you can utter in polite company around children, and one that suggests that the accused will be played in a filmic adaptation of the event by a good actor.

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The later essays in the collection wax nostalgic and mournful and are no less enjoyable than the early stuff. Joseph Timmons tells a sweet story of a chance encounter with Kurt on the subway and then meeting him again at a party later that night.

Some remember a man in good humor, later in life, despite the emphysema the unfiltered Pall Malls had earned him. They got his dad. But I am eighty-two.

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It was ultimately a failed attempt to walk the dog that got him. He fell walking down the steps of his NYC, brownstone home and landed in a coma. He died weeks later, on April 11, I miss the man. And I feel kinship with others who love his work. I met Suzanne McConnell, for instance, quoted above. And Nanny Vonnegut. I met Dave Eggers there, too, whose own writings about Vonnegut are conspicuously absent from the collection. All were, in their own ways, inspired by him. Fourteen months after its publication, I was contacted by the Pentagon.

I said that I believed that both Derby and Pilgrim were based on the man. His family wants to have his remains exhumed and returned to the United States for a proper burial. The materials mention others who witnessed the incident and helped bury Palaia, but nowhere is Vonnegut himself mentioned by name.

Within a couple weeks of that firebombing, Palaia was executed by a squad of four Nazi soldiers. His remains still lie in that unmarked grave. I guess someone got wind of the whole ordeal and thought I should be there in Bloomington at the Granfalloon, alongside Suzanne and Nanny and Dave Eggers and Marc Leeds, author of the Vonnegut Encyclopedia , and Neko Case, whose connection to Kurt remains a mystery to me but who can nevertheless belt a beautiful tune.

Indiana University Professor of English Ed Comentale put the thing together, and I have never attended an event that blurred the lines between an academic conference and a public, cultural event so seamlessly and beautifully.