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Kurt Vonnegut- Your thoughts?
#1
This thread is basically like my other threads. What are your favorite books by him? What do you think of him?

Along with Ray Bradbury, John Steinback, and Alexander Dumas he's EASILY one of my favorite writers.

My favorite book of his and one of the best books I've ever read is Slaughter-House Five. Such a profound and moving experience. A great example of brevity used well and just an incredibly moving book. I even got misty eyes towards the end.

My other top five:

2. Mother Night
3. Breakfast Of Champions
4.Sirens Of TITAN
5. Cat's Cardle.

Thoughts?
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#2
Here; I can save us a lot of time.

Player Piano (1952)[5]
The Sirens of Titan (1959)
Mother Night (1961)
Cat's Cradle (1963)
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; or, Pearls before Swine (1965)
Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)
Slaughterhouse-Five; or The Children's Crusade, A Duty Dance With Death (1969)
Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1970)
Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye Blue Monday (1973)
Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons (1974)
Slapstick; or Lonesome No More (1976)
Jailbird (1979)
Palm Sunday (1981)
Deadeye Dick (1982)
Galápagos: A Novel (1985)
Bluebeard (1987)
Hocus Pocus (1990)
Timequake (1997)
God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (1999)
A Man Without a Country (2005)
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#3
Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers, as well. His ability to combine scifi concepts with wry social commentary & black humor is unmatched. You've got my three favorites mentioned: Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, and Cat's Cradle.

A couple others that I recommend would be Welcome to the Monkey House and Timequake. Monkey House is a collection of short stories, some of which are thematically quite differnt than his usual stuff. Kind of like another side of Vonnegut. Timequake brings back Kilgore Trout is a story that feels as much autobiographical as fiction. There's a real sense of mortality to the novel, particularly as the story approaches the end. In fact, I was taken aback by how deeply affecting the story becomes, resonating with me as deeply as Slaughterhouse Five.
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#4
Quote:

Originally Posted by kingfan

Slaughter-House Five. Such a profound and moving experience. I even got misty eyes towards the end.

Quote:

Originally Posted by kingfan on King

The way I look at it I had tears in my eyes as Rolan'd friends started dying off in the last book. That's gotta mean something.

I think it means you're emotionally unstable.
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#5
I don't know what it is about Vonnegut. I was really into him towards the end of my high school years, but after that, I completely lost interest. I even tried reading Timequake in college, but i couldn't make it past the first few chapters. I think Vonnegut just resonates more with the younger folks.

That's not a slight to anyone who likes Kurt Vonnegut; it's just a personal observation.
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#6
Quote:

Originally Posted by BobClark

I think it means you're emotionally unstable.

I don't know why you would say that.
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#7
Quote:

Originally Posted by Minsky

I don't know what it is about Vonnegut. I was really into him towards the end of my high school years, but after that, I completely lost interest. I even tried reading Timequake in college, but i couldn't make it past the first few chapters. I think Vonnegut just resonates more with the younger folks.

That's not a slight to anyone who likes Kurt Vonnegut; it's just a personal observation.

Really I think his themes are pretty universal and not limited by age. Although he is VERY depressing. Slaughter House Five I would rank along with Catch-22 as one of my favorite anti-war commedies.
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#8
Quote:

Originally Posted by Minsky

I don't know what it is about Vonnegut. I was really into him towards the end of my high school years, but after that, I completely lost interest. I even tried reading Timequake in college, but i couldn't make it past the first few chapters. I think Vonnegut just resonates more with the younger folks.

I hope it's not a universal rule on my part, but I found this was sort of the case with Cat's Cradle, which I'd first read in high school (at which time I loved it) and re-read a few months ago (at which time, I only liked parts of it).

I'm a little afraid to pick up Slaughterhouse-Five again, since I considered it one of my favorite books for years. It would suck if I found it had aged as poorly for me (although I always favored it and Breakfast of Champions over Cat's Cradle, even in my teenage years).

It should be noted that Timequake is probably not the best guage by which to measure how much you (still) enjoy Vonnegut - not a real high point.
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#9
Timequake is great if you've read everything else from Vonnegut. It's sentimentality crushed together in an attempt at a novel. Fun for those who know his history and his works, but it's really just a book for fans.
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#10
Count me in the group of those who fell in love with Vonnegut when they were younger...

He definatley fostered a love of reading in me, and I'll always return to classics like Slaughterhouse 5, but I now find the vast majority of his work pleasent, but rather repetitive and frankly, a little boring...

With his last one, A Man Without A Country I could have sworm it was merely a highlights-reel of old material.

He does what he does, but he does do it well...

An amazing man, regardless.
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#11
I'm fond of Mother Night. Vonnegut is a great writer, but his ideas can sometimes be a bit too absurd and immature (Cat's Cradle really exemplifies this). While Mother Night sometimes tries to be a lot cleverer than it really is, I still love the damn thing. I think Vonnegut’s humor comes across better when he's angry and writes a darker kind of satire, like Slaughterhouse-Five, which transcends its sci-fi trappings.
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#12
I really dig Vonnegut, and only started reading him when I entered college. He's great, but maybe a bit overrated. Then again, I think I've found almost every author I've been turned onto by others to be overrated. I'm not exactly sure what I expect.
I might have been born yesterday sir, but I stayed up all night!
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#13
I'm glad somebody else mentions Mother Night. Salughter House will always be my top prize but Mother Night is a very angry, bitter, devestating book. The story in the book is really amazing. I wish they would doa remake of it.


Also about being repititve he does tend to return to the same but he does it so amazingly well. I don't mind at all.


Oh and for some reason Timequake is the only Vonnegut book I cannot get into at all.
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#14
If you ever get a chance, catch the film version of Mother Night, starring Nick Nolte. It's fucking brilliant.
I might have been born yesterday sir, but I stayed up all night!
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#15
Quote:

Originally Posted by Quarant

If you ever get a chance, catch the film version of Mother Night, starring Nick Nolte. It's fucking brilliant.

Seconded.
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#16
Quote:

Originally Posted by PodBayDoor

Seconded.

Thirded. As I understand it, the only good Vonnegut adaptation ever (although I never saw Breakfast of Champions). Kind of neat that it was directed by Keith Gordon, who was in Back to School, which had a Vonnegut cameo.
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#17
Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB

Thirded. As I understand it, the only good Vonnegut adaptation ever (although I never saw Breakfast of Champions). Kind of neat that it was directed by Keith Gordon, who was in Back to School, which had a Vonnegut cameo.

I think that the Slaughterhouse Five adaptation from 1972 is at least an interesting failure.

And, wow, I never even knew this existed.
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#18
I didn't think the Slaughterhouse-5 film was a failure at all. There was also a film called Harrison Bergeron, but that was made for TV and based on a 10 page short story. Films stretched out like that tend to suck (AHHHH).

I'm not a lesser fan of Vonnegut at all as I age. There's only a couple books that I haven't read, and I've enjoyed nearly all of them a great deal. Even Timequake is a great read, as long as you're very familiar not only with Vonnegut's fiction, but his essays as well. It's a very nice goodbye to his fans.
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#19
I agree about the film version of Slaughter- House Five. I enjoy it it just doesn't blow me away.



I had always heard bad things about Mother Night, but now I'll defintely go rent it.
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#20
Quote:

Originally Posted by Guttenberg Fan Club

I didn't think the Slaughterhouse-5 film was a failure at all.

In a certain sense, I guess it's not. It's probably about as good as any movie based on that book could ever be; it's pretty faithful, as far as the plot goes, and it probably succeeds in delivering the book's point. But, considering that a huge amount of the book's appeal comes from Vonnegut's narrative voice, it's no surprise that, while the book is a classic, the movie isn't too well-regarded; it's a little flat without Vonnegut's unique voice putting it across.

I think the adaptation of Mother Night is a better movie since the source material relies a little less on Vonnegut's narrative style; the plot is more straightforward and requires less exposition, analysis of character's thought processes, etc.
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#21
Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB

I think the adaptation of Mother Night is a better movie since the source material relies a little less on Vonnegut's narrative style; the plot is more straightforward and requires less exposition, analysis of character's thought processes, etc.

I think it also helps that the main character of Mother Night is much closer to a Vonnegut stand-in than Billy Pilgrim is. That way, you get a character to deliver the authorial voice and attitude that, in Slaughterhouse Five (the book) is left to the third person narration, and thus is much harder to convey in film.
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#22
Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB

In a certain sense, I guess it's not. It's probably about as good as any movie based on that book could ever be; it's pretty faithful, as far as the plot goes, and it probably succeeds in delivering the book's point. But, considering that a huge amount of the book's appeal comes from Vonnegut's narrative voice, it's no surprise that, while the book is a classic, the movie isn't too well-regarded; it's a little flat without Vonnegut's unique voice putting it across.

Without a doubt, and for people unfamiliar with the book, it probably seems like a big mess. Knowing what's really going on, though, I think it's a beautiful and understated film.
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#23
Quote:

Originally Posted by PodBayDoor

I think it also helps that the main character of Mother Night is much closer to a Vonnegut stand-in than Billy Pilgrim is. That way, you get a character to deliver the authorial voice and attitude that, in Slaughterhouse Five (the book) is left to the third person narration, and thus is much harder to convey in film.

I don't see it that way. I think Billy is the embodiment of Vonngut's confusion and loss that he carried with him after the war. The basic premise of Mother Night is of a man who really didn't care about much of anything except for his wife who pretends to be something he's not and perhaps causes much more evil than he was supposed to be fighting. I guess it's difficult for me to imagine Vonnegut as someone who just didn't care. His other writings seem to strongly suggest otherwise.

Opposite of what you're saying, I think the reason Slaughterhouse-5 is much more difficult to convey on film (besides the sci-fi time traveling elements) is because it's so much more personal. A lot of the text is him getting his feelings out on paper, while Mother Night is more of a straightforward tale. His being outside of the subject allows him to focus on the character, rather than all of the ideas swirling in his mind.
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#24
Quote:

Originally Posted by Guttenberg Fan Club

I don't see it that way. I think Billy is the embodiment of Vonngut's confusion and loss that he carried with him after the war. The basic premise of Mother Night is of a man who really didn't care about much of anything except for his wife who pretends to be something he's not and perhaps causes much more evil than he was supposed to be fighting. I guess it's difficult for me to imagine Vonnegut as someone who just didn't care. His other writings seem to strongly suggest otherwise.

Opposite of what you're saying, I think the reason Slaughterhouse-5 is much more difficult to convey on film (besides the sci-fi time traveling elements) is because it's so much more personal. A lot of the text is him getting his feelings out on paper, while Mother Night is more of a straightforward tale. His being outside of the subject allows him to focus on the character, rather than all of the ideas swirling in his mind.

I'm not saying that Billy Pilgrim wasn't a more personal character for Vonnegut than Howard was. But Billy strikes me as being much more naive throughout most of the narrative than Vonnegut's third-person narration is.

Mother Night, on the other hand, is a first-person tale, and told from the perspective of the bitter Howard looking back on his life. The cynicism that Vonnegut usually uses his third-person authorial voice to convey (or uses Kilgore Trout for) is, in Mother Night, located in the main character, if that makes any sense. So, when you turn around to adapt it to film, it's easier to convey that cynicism to the audience.
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#25
I've seen that Harrison Bergeron movie. I remember it being as mostly-not-good, but the sequence where he takes over the radio station and plays Beethoven and the Beatles and stuff is quite well done.

Slaughterhouse Five is one of those books I'd read at least half a dozen times before we had to read it for high school, and dissecting the book over a couple of months hasn't made me all that hot to revisit it.

I love "Cat's Cradle" and "Breakfast of Champions," though.
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#26
that's some nice anylasis you guys.


By the way is the Breakfast of Champions film really as bad as everoyne says. I never saw it. Personally I just don't see how you could possibly adapt the book.
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#27
I've always considered "Galapagos" to be his greatest achievement. It's on an epic scale, like "Cat's Cradle", but even funnier, and his observations on human nature in it are just so spot-on. I alternate between laughing incredibly hard and squeaming while reading it, and I can't ask for more from a great book.
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#28
I just re-read Galapagos and was amazed to see Vonnegut pick, out of ALLLLLL the extinct species at the time he wrote the book, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, to come out of the deep woods and thrive again after Humanity took a dive.

Considering the Ivory Billed Woodpecker was just possibly rediscovered last year or the year before, its kind of neat. Not that it invalidates Vonnegut's book, but that he picked the one animal that actually IS hiding from us and biding its time. Well played Ivory Billed Woodpecker, well played...
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#29
Slaughterhouse-Five was THE best book i have ever read in HS and in my life and i still remember it to this day
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#30
I read "Slaughterhouse 5" in senior year in high school, and it was one of the best books I read in high school. Only better ones were probably "The catcher in the Rye" and "A Clockwork Orange".

Only other book by him I read was "Galapagos", which I liked but wasn't blown away by. "SH5" is worlds better. If the rest of his stuff is as good or better than these examples, I think he deserves all the praise he gets. His biting social satire is excellent, and he manages to take seemingly absurd, complex and grandiose plot devices & hold them together over the course of a novel really well (such as the jumping around in time by Billy Pilgrim in SH5 or the fact that, despite its length and depth, the enirety of "Galapagos" is really just the prelude to the actual story that we never get to hear. . . ). He is very skilled indeed.
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#31

He would've been 89 today. Not that he would've wanted to be.

His thoughts on this date:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one and another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

What else is sacred? Oh, "Romeo and Juliet," for instance.

And all music is.

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#32

Beautiful.  Thanks, Martin Blank.  I love Vonnegut and even got to shake his hand once.   It must have been so frustrating for him to try for so many years to communicate the horror and insanity of war only to live through these wars without end.

"I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, 'If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?' But if Christ hadn't delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I'd just as soon be a rattlesnake." Vonnegut, A Man without a Country

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#33

I loved Cat's Cradle  and Slaughterhouse Five (book and movie) as a teenager, loved Galapagos as a twenty something, but overall I have a hard time with Vonnegut. Brilliant he may be, but the undercurrent of despair I see in all his work is just hard for me to take. Like seeing a standup comic who is having a nervous breakdown on stage, so he applies lipstick on his face to produce a Joker grin. Not funny, at all, but horrifying and insightful. I've gotten some chuckles out of his essays and short stories, but the novels always leave me feeling depressed.

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#34

He is one of my favourite authors) For me, Cat's Cradle is the best book by him.

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#35
Bumping an old thread to express my love for Cat's Cradle.  I wanted to try to adapt it to a screenplay for many years but never really tried.

Didn't Richard Kelly have the rights and planned to film it, for a few minutes/years?

Anyway, I found it too difficult to adapt, what with all of the letter exchanges in the beginning and asides about Bokononism.

When I first read it in high school 30 years or so ago, I visualized Ileana Douglas as the horse faced Hoennikker sibling and Steve Buscemi as the Shifty brother.

If anyone ever made it my wish would be Terry Gilliam. I can see the ending in my mind, a sweeping helicopter shot showing a dried up cracked ocean due to Ice-9, and ending on a close up of the narrator, dead/frozen with a symbolic gesture to the heavens.
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