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Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels Hardcover – November 8, 2011
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—Professor Jerome Klinkowitz, author of Vonnegut in Fact, The Vonnegut Effect, and Kurt Vonnegut’s America
“Gregory D. Sumner celebrates what he playfully identifies as the ‘Kurt Vonnegut road show’ with a tribute that is enlightening and entertaining. I read with wonder and delight the biographical sketches so gracefully fused with a montage of Vonnegut stories and the ideas they dramatize. Unstuck in Time is an achievement of scholarship illuminated by a fan’s contagious enthusiasm.”—Sidney Offit, Curator-emeritus George Polk Journalism Awards
"Gregory D. Sumner's Unstuck in Time is a wonderful primer to Kurt Vonnegut's work. Every page brims with analytic insight, biographical revelation, and old-fashioned storytelling. Reading Sumner reminds us about how astoundingly right Vonnegut was about the planetary
condition. Highly recommended!"
—Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University
"'Unstuck in Time'" is a fine, appreciative account of the life and work of a great American writer, Kurt Vonnegut."
—Dan Wakefield, author of New York in the Fifties
“An excellent reading companion to Kurt’s work.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Vonnegut has many strengths. He is a modern writer (having only died in 2007), his writing is often funny and it is deceptively simple, disguising deep ideas in seemingly (but not actually) shallow writing. At least two of his novels are true classics - Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five - and many others are excellent, near-classics themselves, including Mother Night, The Sirens of Titan and Breakfast of Champions.
Gregory D. Sumner's book Unstuck in Time is a biography of Vonnegut as related to his fourteen novels. Beyond the Prologue and Epilogue, there are fourteen chapters corresponding to Vonnegut's novels. Each book is discussed with a summary of the story and how it corresponded to what was going on in Vonnegut's life. Since many of Vonnegut's books have an autobiographical element, this method works well.
Sumner shows the primary influences in Vonnegut's life and how they correspond to his novels.Read more ›
As an informal reference work, this book is invaluable, particularly for those of us who read his works at the time they were published, and are now turning into what Vonnegut would describe as old farts.Much as we remember the pleasure we got from the books, the details are lost between timid and Timbuctoo.
Each of Vonnegut's books gets a chapter to itself, with an overview of the plot which is detailed enough to invoke memories in those of us who have read the book, and provoke interest in those who have not (or may not have read the early, funnier ones). It also reminds us when old friends reappear in later volumes: something which I tended to miss when I first read the books, back in the day. I've never been good with names: apart from Kilgore Trout, that is. Each chapter also includes episodes of Vonnegut's life, at the time he wrote the book. The author doesn't make any outrageous claims about motivation, affects or semiotics; he just mentions what was going on at the time, and lets us draw our own conclusions.
Books, of course, illustrate the Tralfamadorean view of spacetime: everything is laid out already, and the reader just has to choose the viewpoint. This book is an excellent way for the Vonnegut afficionado to spend a few hours unstuck in time.
UNSTUCK IN TIME begins with a short bio of Vonnegut that tells in broad strokes of his wealthy upbringing, the demise of his family fortune during the Great Depression, and his time at Cornell studying chemistry and working at the campus newspaper. It then moves on to consider his experience as a soldier during World War II, his attempt at a Masters in Anthropology at the University of Chicago (his thesis ideas were rejected so he quit without finishing, though he was honored with the degree later in life) and his first day job in PR at General Electric.
All of these experiences shaped the way Vonnegut writes. Sumner proves this point by spending the book's remaining chapters describing at length the plot of every Vonnegut novel, and outlining how certain plot points and themes connect to events in Vonnegut's life --- or what we know of it from the short description we are given.
But Sumner spends far more time describing each book than getting to a point. Had he chosen to discuss fewer of Vonnegut's works or focused on only certain aspects of them, he could have analyzed his points in more detail, and UNSTUCK IN TIME would have been less of Sumner proving to us that he has read every piece of Vonnegut literature and more of him telling us something interesting about the novels.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Do you adore KV or enjoy reading the leftist opinions of a crotchety old man who is very good at sci-fi comedy and is mad about the government? Then this is your book! Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jellybean
Everything you ever wanted to know about the author that everyone should read. THere's not much more to say. Read morePublished on October 31, 2012 by Eric D. Knapp
Like reviewer Doug Urquhart, whose comments I endorse in full, I read Vonnegut's books "back in the day" and all too many details, not to say major chunks, have slipped away. Read morePublished on October 1, 2012 by J.B. Lyle
I read "Slaughterhouse Five" in college and enjoyed it, but not enough to make me seek out other novels by Kurt Vonnegut. Therefore, I admit I'm not a fan. Read morePublished on September 24, 2012 by Brian W. Fairbanks
If you've read a lot of Vonnegut, you probably found his writing easy to read, a lot of fun, but still holding a lot of substance. Read morePublished on September 3, 2012 by Wayne
When I was in grade school, we often had to read books and submit "book reports". The one thing we were told not to do was to simply use our book report to summarize the plot of... Read morePublished on August 30, 2012 by whiteelephant
If you're looking for a solid well written/ clear overview of Vonnetgut's work and philosophy, this really is a solid choice . Read morePublished on July 12, 2012 by Cletus van Damme
For those of us who read Vonnegut's novels in our younger lives, this is a book we can appreciate. It might be a great book for anyone who shares Vonnegut's political beliefs -... Read morePublished on June 24, 2012 by The Spinozanator
I could not believe that such a tedious book could be written about one of the more mirthful writers of the late 20th Century. Read morePublished on June 1, 2012 by Sgt. Greg Parker