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Slapstick or Lonesome No More!: A Novel Paperback – May 11, 1999

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Editorial Reviews 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Some of the best and most moving Vonnegut.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Both funny and sad . . . just about perfect.”—Los Angeles Times
“Imaginative and hilarious . . . a brilliant vision of our wrecked, wacked-out future.”—Hartford Courant
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback (May 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334235
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By M. Strong on May 2, 2006
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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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jane James on 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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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By J. Sesta on 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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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By John M. Lemon on 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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. McOuat on 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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