Kurt Vonnegut Rapidly
an adapted version of something I
wrote up for a friend who was reading Vonnegut at the time and asked my
opinion on what she was reading. I read most of these books when
in college in the early to mid-'90s, so my recollections of many of
them are somewhat hazy now that a decade (or as much as two, nearly)
have passed. I'm sure I would read them differently now if I
across them for the first time, but that's the way it goes. Use
in deciding which to pick up next after you read Slaughterhouse-Five
(because everyone starts with Slaughterhouse-Five,
Note that there are some
books by him I just wouldn't recommend or would go so far as to tell
you to avoid, but I'd rather steer you toward the ones that are worth
checking out because they're interesting and/or just plain enjoyable.
Player Piano (1952) - Not
recommended. One of the few by him I never finished, and I've
never had any desire to return to this one. It reads like it's by
a completely different author. I believe it's his longest.
Note that he didn't write another one for seven years, and by then he
was a different person or writer at least.
Sirens of Titan (1959) - I don't know why, but this one was
really fun. It isn't regarded as one of his best, but it was one
of my favorites at the time I read it. You could make the
criticism that it's overly simplistic, but that's true of almost
everything he ever wrote!
Night (1961) - Not recommended. It's relatively famous and
was even adapted as a film in 1996 starring Nick Nolte, but I just
didn't think it made as good a story as the premise would
suggest. I mean, I get the point it makes (which is valid and
good), but I don't think it's that great a read.
Cradle (1963) - Really, really good one. If you start
looking around, there are a lot of references to "Ice 9" embedded in
culture. I'm not sure why no one has tackled a film adaptation of
this yet. I think this was the second book by him I read.
It should be the second Vonnegut book everyone reads.
You Mr. Rosewater (1965) - Not recommended. I barely
remember this one.
- Essential reading! This was the first one I read
by him, and it's among my favorites. I've gotten interested in
time travel over the last few years, and Vonnegut's take on it here is
the closest to the version I imagine.
to the Monkey House (1970) (short story collection) - A lot of
good stuff here, but I don't think Vonnegut is a great short story
writer. He's at his best in his novels. The exception is
the story "Who Am I This Time?" Also contains the short story
"Harrison Bergeron" which I have used as a metaphor for
ADD. The father (or uncle?) with the helmet blasting loud noises
in the smart guy's head? That's what it's like having constant
distractions pulling you in different directions so that you can never
get one thing done or follow a thought to completion.
of Champions (1973) - I didn't like this one a lot because it
was divided across two completely separate stories that don't overlap
until the very end, and not really for any good reason. Each
could have been expanded into its own novel.
and Granfallons (1974) – essays, assorted works - A lot of
interesting ideas in here.
Lonesome No More! (1976) - There are a lot of really great
ideas in this one, and it's very fantastical. Goes stranger
places than probably any of his other books. Ironically, Vonnegut
himself apparently hated this book (see below). I loved it.
(1979) - Not recommended. Just not a compelling enough
Dick (1982) - I think this was the first of his books where he
started hinting at or even telling you the end of the book before you
were a couple chapters in.
Novel (1985) - Really great one. It's the one novel by
him I would describe as epic.
Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988) (1987) -
Another really fun one. There are a lot of things going on in
here. I felt like this and the two before are stylistically
similar and represented a breakthrough for him. All three were
good and different and fresh.
Pocus (1990) - Not recommended. I never could finish this
one. I think I finally did, but I can barely remember anything
(1997) - A bit of a mess. It seemed to me to be a series
of nearly unconnected recollections and largely autobiographical.
In his non-fiction collection Palm
Sunday, the author grades his own
works. We agree strongly in some places and disagree just as
strongly in others.
The Sirens of Titan: A
Mother Night: A
Cat's Cradle: A+
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A
Welcome to the Monkey House: B−
Happy Birthday, Wanda June: D
Breakfast of Champions: C
Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons: C
Palm Sunday: C