I never really considered the fact that Kilgore Trout's (Vonnegut's alter ego science fiction writing character) stories always appeared in pornographic magazines, until I saw an excerpt from Hocus Pocus in either Playboy or Penthouse, giving me an excuse to say I'd bought the magazine for its articles and stories.
It makes me wonder then about what this says about pornographic magazines. Maybe it suggests that many of them, in order to try to create an illusion of legitamacy, will take chances with literature that mainstream magazines might find to controversial.
Indeed Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus may seem controversial to some, for it talks about things that a large majority of Americans would be more comfortable ignoring. Just as the main character, Eugene Debs Hartke is fired from his teaching job for having overly pessimistic ideas, Vonnegut's book itself pulls America's skeletons out of its closet.
Perhaps what certain literature has in common with pornography, is the tendency people have to try to ignore what they both say about our society, to try to push it as far under the bed as possible.
Hocus Pocus picks at the scabs of not only America's greatest embarrassments, but also our greatest failures. Everything from television talk-shows to the Vietnam War, racism, classism, the death of our economy, and the overcrowding of prisons is laid bare in all its uncomfortable ugliness.
The difference however, between Hocus Pocus and a simple pessimistic rant, is Vonnegut's unique ability to make us laugh at it all, but without downplaying its seriousness at all. Overall it is a must read, for Vonnegut fans and for any American that wants to live honestly with him/herself.