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Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 240 pages
  • Series: Kurt Vonnegut Series (Book 15)
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Book Description

Kurt Vonnegut presents in Fates Worse than Deatha veritable cornucopia of Vonnegut's thought on what could best be summed up as perhaps "anti-theology", a manifesto for atheism that details Vonnegut's drift from conventional religion, even a tract evidencing belief in the divine held within each individual self; the Deity within each individual person present in a universe that otherwise lacks any real order.

Vonnegut was never a real optimist and with just cause: he had an incredibly difficult life (he had been a prisoner of war from which he drew the title for his book Slaughterhouse-Five) and suffered from failing health, which only showed him his own mortality even more than he already knew it. Still, most readers find that in the body of Vonnegut's work there is still a glimmer of desperate hope. Vonnegut's continued search for meaning surely counts for a great deal as he balances hope and despair.

Scholars and fans can read about Vonnegut's experiences during World War II and the after-effect he felt it had on him. His religious (or anti-religious) ramblings and notations are interesting and, by turns, funny and perceptive. The humor may be dark, but that does not make it any the less funny.


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.


Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut's World War II POW experience) and Cat's Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut's work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut's work as well as newcomers.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These 21 essays, combining personal recollections and political reiterations, lack a unifying theme; they are likely to disappoint even Vonnegut fans.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is a stimulating if rambling book of essays that discusses everything from the ugliness of the 1988 presidential campaign to male bonding in the stories of Ernest Hemingway. Maybe because Vonnegut has never hung around political speechwriters, he is pessimistic about the future of life on Earth and frankly nostalgic for the days when we were free of the certain knowledge that we would make this planet uninhabitable. Yet on the positive side, he sees in this country a decrease in racism (which he concedes may be only temporary). Some of the ideas here will be familiar to Vonnegut readers, such as the unnecessary bombing of Dresden or the now outrageous fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but all are offered in the hope of improving our chances at survival and often with disarming humor. Moralize, he tells young writers, but be sure to sound reader-friendly, like Cervantes rather than Cotton Mather. Recommended for most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/91.
- Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 913 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (August 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IQ5JC0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,385 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutally honest commentary July 8, 2001
Here in this book we get Vonnegut's cynical but honest commentary on everything from talk show hosts to his own experiences with suicidal depression. Some of the chapter's are extremely pessimistic in their outlook, but hit home so well that they can leave you feeling quite down about the human race and it's apparent race headlong towards suicide. However, Kurt's dark sense of humor is here as always and even more prevalent than usual. You'll be laughing out loud at things that are really anything but funny. But that is the genius of Vonnegut, he can have you laughing and wryly amused while reading, but after done, his greater impressions stick in your head and leave you provoking thought. He is truly a gifted writer. Although not as fast-paced as his fiction, this book is a fine and interesting read. Most notable to many readers, surely, will be his perceptions and thoughts on his experiences in World War II and the effect it has since had on him. His religious observations are interestings as well, and funny, to wit: "In order not to appear a spiritual quadripelgic to those trying to get a hold on me, I sometimes say that I am a Unitarian Universalits (I breathe.)" This is certainly a must-read for any Vonnegut fan, but you will want to have devoured a significant amount of his fiction and know a little bit about the man before tackling it.
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70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "De Mess We's In" (Amos and Andy) May 10, 2002
By L. Dann
To borrow a verb from Hawthorne, I was "purposed" here. Having eaten the garbage of the day's media reports, I picked up this book for the "cleansing" redux. Some bittersweet sorbet it was- here are some of the things that made me laugh.
Charleton Heston played Jesus with shaved armpits.
To describe our nation, he quotes Amos an' Andy, "De mess we's in"
Re: Thomas Jefferson's owning slaves- "It was as though he had an infected growth on the tip of his nose the size of a walnut and everyone thought that was OK."
When KV's father was dying he apologized for calling him 'Bozo.' Then about five minutes later he called him Bozo again.
Here are things that made my heart stop:
The average age of an American to die in Vietnam was 20. (My own son had just joined- against my wishes- the military, at 20.)
If Western Civilization were a person, we would be directing him to War Preparers Anonymous.
That's the kind of stuff you'll read in essays that are distressing and comforting and hilarious- if you know Vonnegut, you know what I'm saying. Personally, I like a bit more fiction, but as I said, I was purposed here, and I think you may be too.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peek Into Vonnegut's Head July 29, 2003
These essays give us a rare look in to the mind of a genius. He expounds on subjects ranging from mental illness, family relationships, death and war. Sounds depressing, but an optimism shows through. Vonnegut masterfully points out the adsurdity around us and shines the light of sanity on it. The essays are as relevant and mind opening today as they were when he wrote them over a decade ago. Although this is not the Veonnegut work I would recommend to someone unfamiliar with his work, anyone will benefit from reading it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anguish and Outrage - This Canary Sang Himself to Death January 18, 2011
Vonnegut's take on the 1980's applies tenfold to the 21st century.

He was very angry. Upset over greed and injustice.

So much so he tried at one time to kill himself, as he relates in this most candid retrospective of the decade where greed became acceptable and even virtuous in Reagan's America. (As Vonnegut reveals, both he and Reagan were at times PR men for General Electric. Vonnegut quit shilling for corporations, Reagan continued from his seat in the Oval Office.)

This is Vonnegut at his angriest and most straightforward. He does not mince words as he lambastes Reagan, Bush, and their hyperprivileged ilk. (Later, in 2006 he famously said, "The only difference between [G.W.] Bush and Hitler is Hitler was elected." Zing!)

But these fits of justified pique are tempered with rapturous meditations on love, friendship, empathy, and the secular sanctity of life and art.

When Vonnegut died he was working on a novel titled If God Were Alive Today. If Vonnegut were alive today I wonder what he would say. (The lead actors have changed but the play remains the same.)

Who will take his place as a voice of sanity, compassion, and outrage in American letters? I suspect someone or ones are out there but can't find a platform to reach a critical mass despite the illusory promises of the internet.

I suppose Vonnegut never reached a critical mass, either. Or did he? One of the highlights of this book is the reprint of a speech given to the graduating class of U. of Rhode Island in 1990, where he posits that American liberty may have been *conceived* in 1776 but it has yet to be born--and needs people like you and me to be its midwives.

The more people who read this book, the better. Perhaps it's not too late.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I laughed, I cried... not really. July 31, 1999
By A Customer
This is a great book for anyone who likes Kurt Vonnegut. If you enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five, you will enjoy hearing him recount stories about his experience in WWII, and also others. The thing that I love about Kurt Vonnegut is his ability to make you laugh on the surface, but hours after you have read his work, you think about the more serious issues raised. There are some parts of this book that are somewhat slow, but if you stay the course you will enjoy this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but very good nevertheless!
Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorites. Although my political credo often clashes with Vonnegut's, one cannot but deeply appreciate his wry acerbic and hillarious humor and his... Read more
Published 14 days ago by medfair
4.0 out of 5 stars Living history
He is as relevant today as40 years ago. He is a real character of his time. I would recommend this book as an anthology of era. Thanks
Published 28 days ago by John L Shasteen
5.0 out of 5 stars More for fans than newcomers, but those fans will be very happy
How much you enjoy Fates Worse Than Death will depend in no small amount on how much you enjoy Vonnegut's voice in general. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Josh Mauthe
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I loved this book. It gives wonderful insights into the man and the inspirations behind his novels. I thoroughly enjoyed his cranky old manness (though, he wasn't *that* old when... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Joey Lott
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Nice book. Fair price.
Published 5 months ago by Bookslave
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A marvelous writer, and thought-provoking book. Thanks.
Published 6 months ago by r. mccampbell
4.0 out of 5 stars fates Worse Than Kurt Vonnegut
This book was different than other of the author's books since it was short autobiographical sketches. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I really like all of Kurt Vonnegut's books.
Published 6 months ago by David Lee Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars As much as I love his fiction
As much as I love his fiction, Vonnegut shines even brighter when he can tell you what he really thinks.
Published 8 months ago by Dave Douma
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Kurt Vonnegut
Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will love this book. Non-fans may be puzzled by his humor. I am a fan, so adore all of his books including this one.
Published 9 months ago by kathleen Klorer
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More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

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