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Armageddon in Retrospect Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 1, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, April 1, 2008
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 2nd edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399155082
  • ASIN: B002VPE95O
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,140,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kerry Walters on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Vonnegut is an American treasure. He was the Mark Twain of my generation, and I'm confident that he'll continue to be read and admired by future ones. But not everything that even an author like Vonnegut writes needs to see the light of day. And if Vonnegut himself chose not to publish certain manuscripts during his lifetime, that sends off a pretty good signal.

Which brings us to Armageddon in Retrospect, a posthumous (one of many to come?) collection of twelve unpublished pieces related to war. (The entire collection is prefaced by Vonnegut's final speech, which after his death was read by his son Mark to the gathering that commissioned it. If it actually had been given by Vonnegut, it probably would've been hilarious; delivery is everything. But in print, it's a rather tedious litany of flat one-liners.) Many of the pieces are inspired by Vonnegut's World War II experience as a prisoner of war, the same one that birthed his incomparable Slaughterhouse-Five. But these stories, unlike the novel, are...well, at best mildly interesting and insightful. The only one that really measures up to the Vonnegut genius is the title piece, "Armageddon in Retrospect." Less good but still respectable are "Great Day" and "Happy Birthday, 1951." But other pieces in the collection, such as "Just You and Me, Sammy" and "Brighten Up" are just awful: mechanical in style, predictable in plot.

What does come across in these hitherto unpublished writings is the humanist Vonnegut's deep hatred of war. (In the collection's Introduction, son Mark tells us that Vonnegut became depressed and hopeless when the current war in Iraq broke out.
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Format: Hardcover
"Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization."

Kurt Vonnegut was no stranger to getting his feelings out there in his fiction. Slaughterhouse-Five is the most obvious example, using protagonist Billy Pilgrim's experience as a survivor of the horrific bombing of Dresden as a stand-in for Vonnegut himself, who was a prisoner of war during that life-altering event. Being present for that atrocity forever scarred Vonnegut's perception of humanity, and the repercussions can be felt whenever you pick up one of his books. Truly, he was a man with a complicated, tortured perspective on the rest of the world. He had seen humanity at its worst, yet still seemed to believe that it was possible for man to redeem himself if he would just try. Yes, Vonnegut's canon is packed with the disgust for civilization that he mentions in the above quote, but it is also marked by a starry-eyed hopefulness. William Golding, author of "Lord of the Flies," struck the same chords in his fiction, and he took home a Nobel Prize for his troubles.

"Armageddon in Retrospect" is a collection of previously unpublished works by Vonnegut, almost exclusively from the period of his life after he returned home from WWII and before he struck it big as a novelist.
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Format: Paperback
In this book, Kurt Vonnegut returns to his lifelong obsession: the bombing of the German city of Dresden at the end of World War II. In `Wailing Shall be in the Streets': `boys, you killed an appalling lot of women and children. Wholesale bombing of civilian populations was blasphemous. The sickening truth is that for all the sublimity of the cause for which we fought, we surely created a Belsen of our own.'

He was fed up with US governmental policies: `that all that money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries.' (Introduction by his son, Mark)
He didn't have a great opinion about his white compatriots: `the most splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizen have maintained their dignity and self-respect, despite their having been treated by white Americans simply because of their skin color.' (`At Clower Hall, Indianapolis')

The real nature of Man and `Civilization'
Nor was his vision of man in general very bright: inventions of still more sophisticated weapons (`Great Day'), attraction to violence (`Soft citizen of the American democracy learned to kick a man below the belt and make the [...]scream.'), the brutality of the powerful (`The Unicorn Trap), war profiteering (`Brighten Up'), use of secret intelligence services ('Just You and Me, Sammy') or search for revenge (`The Commandant's Desk').
Ultimately, the Devil sits inside Man; Man is the Devil (`Armageddon in Retrospect').

His last published words summarize it all: `It was disgust with civilization'.

This book is a must read for all lovers of world literature and for all fans of the writer of such masterpieces as `Slaughterhouse Five' and `Mother Night'.
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