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Slapstick [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Perhaps the most autobiographical (and deliberately least disciplined) of Vonnegut's novels, Slapstick (1976) is in the form of a broken family odyssey and is surely a demonstration of its eponymous title. The story centers on brother and sister twins, children of Wilbur Swain, who are in sympathetic and (possibly) telepathic communication and who represent Vonnegut's relationship with his own sister who died young of cancer almost two decades before the book’s publication.

Vonnegut dedicated this to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Like their films and routines, this novel is an exercise in non-sequentiality and in the bizarre while using those devices to expose larger and terrible truths. The twins exemplify to Swain a kind of universal love; he campaigns for it while troops of technologically miniaturized Chinese are launched upon America. Love and carnage intersect in a novel contrived to combine credibility and common observation; critics could sense Vonnegut deliberately flouting narrative constraint or imperative in an attempt to destroy the very idea of the novel he was writing.

Slapstick becomes both product and commentary, event and self-criticism; an early and influential example of contemporary ""metafiction."" Vonnegut's tragic life--like the tragic lives of Laurel, Hardy, Buster Keaten and other exemplars of slapstick comedy--is the true center of a work whose cynicism overlays a trustfulness and sense of loss which are perhaps deeper and truer than expressed in any of Vonnegut's earlier or later works. Slapstick is a clear demonstration of the profound alliance of comedy and tragedy which, when Vonnegut is working close to his true sensibility, become indistinguishable.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

ABOUT THE SERIES

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

Amazon.com Review

Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, centenarian, the last President of the United States, King of Manhattan, and one-half (along with his sister, Eliza) of the most powerful intelligence since Einstein, is penning his autobiography. He occupies the first floor of a ruined Empire State Building and lives like a royal scavenger with his illiterate granddaughter and her beau. Buffeted by fluctuating gravity, the U.S. has been scourged by not one, but two lethal diseases: the Green Death and the Albanian Flu. Consequently, the country has fallen into civil war. (Super-intelligent, miniaturized Chinese watch the West self-destruct from the sidelines.) Swain stayed at the White House until there were no citizens left to govern, then moved to deserted New York City, where he writes a thoughtful missive before death.

In Slapstick, Vonnegut muses on war, man's hubris, and the awful, crippling loneliness humans are freighted with--but, miraculously, the book still manages to delight and amuse. Absurd, knowing, never depressing, Slapstick kindles hope--for the possibility of wisdom, perhaps; for human resiliency, surely.

It's best to end with a quote from the prologue wherein the author discourses on The Meaning of It All, or at least This Book: "Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go off looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.
I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, 'Please--a little less love, and a little more common decency.'"
Amen.

Review

"Vonnegut's ongoing  puppet show. . .the fabulous is reborn."--John  Updike, The New Yorker.

"Imaginative and hilarious... a brilliant vision of  wrecked, wacked-out future!"  --Hartford Courant

Product Details

  • File Size: 1306 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (August 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IHWCF6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,780 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When reading Vonnegut, I find myself rethinking subjects I pass over in day-to-day life without a second thought. It makes me feel enlightened, like I have some unique perspective on the world. In reality, the only credit I deserve is for my choice of reading material. Vonnegut so effectively carries his reader to a different point from which to view the world that you barely notice that you didn't get there yourself. What could be a greater testament to an author than that?

All of Vonnegut's novels accomplish the same feat, but this one does it more, or better. As this book wound down, I became sad - not because I didn't want the story to end, but because I didn't want the feeling of seeing the world from a unique place to end. Fortunately, once you put the book down, a lot of that new perspective stays with you.

This is a great book for anyone who wants to see the world in ways they haven't before. Very highly recommended.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite of Vonnegut's works June 17, 2000
Format:Paperback
Vonnegut himself said he couldn't decide if this book was his worst - or his best.
I love this one and it's my favorite Vonnegut book.
In it he actually discusses his own life a good bit, and his relationship with his sister, with whom he was very close. I felt like I had a much better idea of who Vonnegut is after reading this one.
The two main characters are very engaging, and the story is classic Vonnegut -- you gotta love people despite all their faults. The story is post-Apocalyptic, as so many of his stories are, but it has a more positive feel to it than many of them, despite the poor circumstances the people are in.
The message that life goes on is a hopeful one. I found the relationship between the main characters to be very thought-provoking. I think the critics vilified this one when it was first published, and I can't say that if you like Vonnegut you'll love this one -- because even some of his fans didn't like this one so much.
But if you like the idea of 2 soulmates being better together than they are separately, and if you've a fondness for the idiosyncracies of geniuses, you might like this one as much as I did.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cornerstone of Satirical Accomplishment! February 28, 2002
Format:Paperback
I am almost AFRAID to write this review, as "Slapstick" is my all-time favorite book, and I feel that an amateur review somehow cheapens it.
This story covers a lot of territory in a short period of time, but, as is the case with 99% of Vonnegut's work (I exclude "Timequake"), it is all tied together into one perfectly flowing storyline.
The main theme in "Slapstick" is lonliness, and the inexplicable human condition that forces each individual to search for acceptance into something bigger than just individual identity.
If you've never read a Vonnegut book, this should be your first choice, as it is one of the best examples of Kurt Vonnegut's uncanny ability to make the reader laugh out loud at tragic/sad situations.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not one of his better books August 25, 2008
Format:Paperback
I have mixed feelings about Kurt Vonnegut. I always admire the way he writes - his ability to propel me through a book, quickly and effortlessly. I know there will be a few good laughs, some heart-wrenching tragedy, and some wry or clever social commentary. When he is at the top of his game, he is one of the best. I really enjoyed Breakfast of Champions and I consider Slaughterhouse Five to be a masterpiece. So every couple of years, I read another Vonnegut book, hoping to recapture that magic.

But here's the thing - while I like the way Vonnegut writes, I often find myself not really liking the actual story. The plot devices are too silly, too cute, or too absurd to be taken seriously. Or worse, the jokes fall flat or the satire is uninspired.

Slapstick has all of these faults with none of the rewards. After 25 pages, I knew the book was a dud and seriously thought about putting it down. But it is just so easy to read, I kept on, hoping it would improve. But to no avail. If anything, it lost momentum about half-way through the book, when the Wilbur's twin sister, Eliza, moves out of the story. Overall, the plot is foolish and ridiculous. The funny parts aren't that funny, and the sad parts are only occasionally poignant or tragic. Finally, the satire isn't clever or insightful; rather, it feels obligatory and halfhearted.

So I kept thinking, what is the point of this book? That Kurt Vonnegut mourns the loss of his sister, the one person he wrote for? While her death is sad, Slapstick only hints at his pain, so the reader never fully appreciates the extent of his loss.

Perhaps the point is that simple human decency is desirable and the cornerstone of a functional society. Okay.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From epidemic loneliness to "lonesome no more!" February 8, 2006
Format:Paperback
In the prologue, Vonnegut says that he wrote this book based on a dream he had while sleeping on a plane. The book has a dreamy feel to it, kind of a Lucy-in-a-Sky-with-Diamonds quality. The main narrator, Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, is a tall and hideously ugly monster. Like other monsters from other books (the monster in Frankenstein, the Devil in Paradise Lost, John Garder's Grendel, Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame), Wilbur is rejected from society. Wilbur is fortunate to have a twin sister with whom his interaction (like Yin and Yang), influences the destinies of creatures and things. Humanity, in its apparent self-righteousness and fear, separates the two. Wilbur is still smart enough to become a pediatrician, but he is only a shadow of his potential self.

Vonnegut points out that monsters are okay as long as they don't want respect or to feel included. So, isn't it interesting that Wilbur becomes president of the United States with the campaign slogan of "Lonesome no more" and the platform of assigning each citizen to an extended family. To Vonnegut, a central course for societal improvement is the creation of artificial family groups to connect the masses and alleviate the lonely. In contrast to "individualism" and "objectivism," Vonnegut exalts the premise that life is made easier and more enjoyable when artificial family members are relied upon to provide sustenance and companionship. In Slapstick, Vonnegut proposes that our species is incapable of relationships without artificial governmental intervention. We are insular in our differences and innately callous towards each other.

Briefly after Wilbur's apotheosis to President, the gravitational conditions begin to change like the pressure systems of weather.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars there is no other book like Slapstick. This is what happens when...
One of my all time favorites; there is no other book like Slapstick. This is what happens when someone is brave enough to write exactly what they imagine, without any nods at all... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Tina Walker
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not the paper and ink.
Published 28 days ago by Lyle C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut.
Maybe strange, but I've read his best handful of books a number of times each. They are my favorite works of art.
Published 1 month ago by adam
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
boring
Published 1 month ago by Helen Paracka
4.0 out of 5 stars Book was as described, however it was a different ...
Book was as described, however it was a different edition than I expected. It is still the same book, but just a different cover, which is why I rated only 4 out of 5 stars
Published 1 month ago by Andrew McKee
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my fave.
Hmmm... I'm less and less of a Vonnegut fan all the time. Oh well.
Published 2 months ago by SOUNDOCTOR BARRY OBER
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Didn't Much Care For This One ...
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars don't bother.
A very rambling and dull.read. It focuses on the author and his sister an it lost me on the fifth chapter.
Published 2 months ago by Big Ric
3.0 out of 5 stars Hi Ho.
Uh, weird. Hi ho....
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Vonnegut
It's classic Vonnegut, what more need be said?
Published 2 months ago by David Schachter
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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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