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Hocus Pocus by [Vonnegut, Kurt]
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Hocus Pocus Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While awaiting trial for an initially unspecified crime, Vietnam vet and college professor Eugene Debs Hartke realizes that he has killed exactly as many people as he has had sex with, a coincidence that causes him to doubt his atheism. According to PW , "The cumulative power of the novel is considerable, revealing Vonnegut at his fanciful and playful best."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


After you have read one of Kurt Vonnegut's gleefully pessimistic novels, his words go on colouring your world for a long time afterwards... not to read him would be to miss out on lessons that need to be learned about the age we live in' Sunday Times. 'It is all done with voice. Vonnegut is a master of the first-person, manic-depressive stand-up' Observer. 'Although it is set in the near future, Hocus Pocus is the most topical, realistic Vonnegut novel to date, and shows the struggle of an artist a little impatient with allegory and more than a little impatient with his own country' New York Times Book Review.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1318 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (August 21, 2011)
  • Publication Date: August 21, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,500 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is probably my favorite of all of Vonnegut's works. It's the story of an ex-military man who becomes a teacher at a school for learning-disabled rich kids. He eventually is fired from the school for telling the students what an embarrassment it is to be an American, and he is hired by the prison across the lake. The story only gets more cynical and more sentimental from there. As each character dies, and so it goes, they are buried in the shadow of Musket Mountain when the sun goes down, a nice, poetic touch on this deeply sarcastic look at the American ruling class. I loved the alternative history lesson provided in this book, it's nice to see the positive side of American socialism and the potential it once held way back at the start of the 20th century. Hocus Pocus is one of those books I go back to ever couple of years and re-read...I like it that much.
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Format: Paperback
Unlike the other Vonnegut novels that I have read, "Hocus Pocus" seems to come dangerously close to biting off more than it can chew -- and for the first half of the book it does. It takes a full hundred-and-fifty pages or so for Vonnegut to get a handle on all of the disparate themes that have crammed their way into this novel: racial strife, economic strife, the state of education in America, the follies of elitism, the de-humanizing effects of war (a Vonnegut favorite), love, sex, marriage, alcoholism, pride, honor, television, genetics and heredity, the outsourcing of American businesses, prison overcrowding, cultural identity ... believe it or not, I could go on. "Hocus Pocus" is too much of a hodge-podge, and it doesn't seem to know what it is trying to say or where it is drawing your attention at first. Thank goodness the second half of the book is a marked improvement. It actually ends up being enjoyable and says a lot of intelligent (if typically Vonnegut) things.

Still, there are some other problems with "HP" that could potentially turn a reader off -- particularly if they are not accustomed to Vonnegut's unique brand of storytelling. Eugene Debs Hartke is not a compelling Vonnegut protagonist; he has the quirky personality, the jaded outlook that comes with experience and the moral ambiguity, but he is surprisingly boring when you consider that he's an ex-soldier renowned for his deft and brutal technique, a sex addict and married to an insane woman to boot. He just doesn't resonate the way a Billy Pilgrim, Kilgore Trout (who makes a sort-of appearance here when one of his short stories turns up, for all you tried and true Vonnegut fans out there), or Howard W. Campbell, Jr. do in their respective stories.
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By A Customer on October 21, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me first tell you that this is by far one of Vonnegut's best. The social commentary that is diguised in the form of satire is rather tremendous and poignant. It has definitely an anti-war flavor to it, but it never overshadows the real substance of the author's witticism. It's a funny book, but not "hillarious" as the back cover of this volume attests. From a different point of view, it's a rather sad book if you understand the implications of the subject matter. A very good book and would recommend to any one interested in modern and post-modern American prose.
* Vonnegut is a post-modernist, which implies that the book (or any work of art) can and more likely be free of classical rigidity. So, complaining that he jumps back and forth through time and places is not a good criterion to undermine this work.
* Repudiating this work because of Vonnegut's anti-war passages is as unfair as doing the same for say, Hemingway, O'Brian, Dalai Lama.
* This is a quinteseential post-moder work, and as said above, it should and does not need to conform to the cannonical rules of plot flow, time flow, and characater development. You could even call this book a Cubist work due to its subdivisions within chapters.
* This book goes much more than just war. It goes into love, sex, selling of American enterprises (and hence America) to foreign investors, race, class consciousness, and the attempt to keep the status quo by those who are ver well-off.
* This book is completely well structured. Your could easily read just one chapter and be as happy as reading the whole book. The chapters are self-sufficient and self-contained. The further chapters are elaborations of thing, characters and bits from preceding chapters.
* This is a GOOD book!
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