Customer Reviews: Slapstick or Lonesome No More!
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on May 2, 2006
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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on June 17, 2000
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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on February 28, 2002
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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on February 8, 2006
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. The United States collapses into kingdoms governed by local lords and there is a civil war. Apparently, Vonnegut does not expect his extended family initiative to end war, but he proposes that war would be more humane since everyone will know they have family members on the other side. During the battle, the soldiers that are hugging newly found relatives outnumber the soldiers that are shooting each other.

As in other Vonnegut books, the ruthless pursuit of knowledge proves dangerous. The Chinese not only disrupt the steady pull of gravity into a debilitating ebb and flow, but they also make themselves smaller and smaller, becoming so small they can be inhaled. Unfortunately, an inhaled Chinese person is not good for you and a rampant new plague is created called Green Death. Eventually, "Green Death" causes the total destruction of everyone in New York City ("Sky Scraper National Park") with the exception of one extended family (Raspberry's) that developed an antidote.

If inhaled china men and sixty-nining sibling monsters does not sound funny to you, then you may want to skip this one. Vonnegut presents the question that has been asked by Mary Shelley, John Milton, John Gardner, Victor Hugo and others: Are we monsters living in an increasingly civilized society, or are we increasingly civilized men living in a monstrous society?
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on August 25, 2008
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. But I already knew that, and this book didn't really do much to show me why I need a reminder.

I found out soon after reading Slapstick that Vonnegut considered it to be one of his worst books. If you love Vonnegut, go ahead and give it a whirl. You'll plow through it in a couple of hours. But if you are new to Vonnegut or just lukewarm on him, give this one a pass.

Hi ho.
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on April 1, 2013
I felt like I was in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, where all manner of things are contemplated and few are immediately apparent. As America implodes and China explores other planets, conquers hunger, and invents teleportation, the former President of the United States in the person of Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain campaigns on the slogan, "Lonesome No More." He devises an artificial familial system to replace the close communities of relatives that has been destroyed by technological advances and a belief in the individual. The system devolves into disaster. Warring factions split the country apart. Governmental apparatuses disintegrate, leaving citizens at the mercy of the strong and making education irrelevant. It is a sad review of our time. What have we lost through blind ambition? Are two heads really better than one? The book leaves America's future in doubt and forces a reflection of our present status. I'll have to read "Slaughterhouse Five" and some other works to decide if I really like Kurt Vonnegut. This book was a little too far out there for me.
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on August 30, 2015
The writing style of "Slapstick" is classic Vonnegut, but perhaps the strangest book he wrote. And it's of course meant to be off the walls and odd. I found the story to be very creative and it's messages thought provoking. However going into reading this, one should have a general idea of what's going on in the plot. Vonnegut doesn't spell everything out to the reader, in fact he can often be somewhat vague. The book is sort of rambling in that Vonnegut way, but I still think it's easy enough to see what ideas Vonnegut is trying to get across. While it doesn't approach many of his brilliant earlier works, I would read it again and I would recommend it. It didn't move me as much as I hoped it would but I would still say that Vonnegut succeeded in crafting a unique and thoughtful novel.
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on March 20, 2015
Probably the most underrated Kurt Vonnegut book. One he himself didn't like much and that got a ton of negative press.

For me it's brilliant. Because he's write we live in a lonesome society where in many places especially big cities people don't have deep family connections.

Goes well too with his amazing semi-memoir that I have read like 10 times since it came out "A Man Without a Country." His world wariness shines through on this book.

If you are a fan and haven't read it I highly recommend it.

For me it's below Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle and a Man Without a Country but ahead of excellent and deserved classics like Rosewater, Mother Night and Sirens of Titan. And way ahead of the juvenile and very overrated Breakfast of Champions, which I will admit I would have loved the jokes at 13. And the only Vonnegut book I don't like the very awkward Galapagos.
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on December 29, 2001
This is the first Vonnegut I ever read, and I am happy it is! It is a great story about the apocalyptic future of mankind, shown through the eyes of a 100 year old neanderthaloid living in the Empire State Building on the Island of Death (NY). The book blends dark comedy with moving writing. I read it in two days because I couldn't put it down. Believe me, it was good. I don't even read books assigned to me by school, so for me to go off and buy this and read it in a few days is certainly showing somthing good about this book. On the cover of "Mother Night", my current Vonnegut read, it says Vonnegut is "addictive". It's true; don't read this if you don' want to get hooked!
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on October 27, 2001
I am a huge Vonnegut fan, and this has to be one of my favorites. It is certainly his most imaginative book. It is great for stimulating your own imagination. Vonnegut gives us an alternative version of reality that is a little frightening to some people. In this book, you will meet weird and interesting characters, you will be presented with some far-out ideas about government, and gravity will no longer be constant. The book is fun, impossible, insane, and it is NEVER EVER boring. If you want to find out what the human imagination is capable of, read this book.
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