Book Review – Slapstick Or Lonesome No More – Kurt Vonnegut

A review of the science fiction book that Kurt Vonnegut did not himself rate very highly.

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Reading Murakami did not prepare me for this. Ritesh had lent me with the book thinking I would like it and I am not sure how I feel about reading it. I feel like I have read someone’s deepest darkest feelings. Alright, let’s get to it-

Characters

There are names and so many names in the novel. It is autobiographical and is told from the viewpoint of one Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-II Swain. Eliza is his twin sister and they are one unit. When divided, they are crippled. Now this is a time different from ours, perhaps the dimension too. Wars are happening, there are fiefdoms and kingdoms. Death is common. The puzzle of afterlife is pretty much solved.

Hi ho.

The characters seem to be woven in a dream. We do not really get to see the inner workings of the narrator himself pretty much for the reason that he doesn’t have much to say emotionally. The characters are simply not believable and are not meant to be. That is kind of what to expect when you’re told that the narrator is an intelligent neanderthal.

Plot

What plot? There is no plot. It is a lucid dream. The world has come to an end and a man is captive in the White House because aside from being a well read man and a pediatrician, he is also, waitforit, the President of United States. USA that now has kings and dukes. And then there are asteroids with apple trees and colonized Mars.

But you don’t get to taste the future. It is not that sort of book. It is like entering someone’s dream. Everything is vague and loose. The President is President because he could identify the one problem the country had – everyone was lonesome. There were simply not enough relatives. So, he comes up with this genius (?) idea of giving middle names (His own is Daffodil) randomly and then letting the computer choose relatives for you. Hence the election campaign badge that says “Lonesome No More!”

Also, in this universe, gravity is fluid and afterlife is better understood. There is also a subtle satire on Chinese communists when they are associated with the colour green (of money?) and not red. There are similar such satirical references strewn here and there but they run the risk of remaining unnoticed forever.

Language

This book just had 170 pages and a lot of paragraph changes. It is hardly a two hour read. But you do need to breathe between paragraphs. All of it is too much to take. It is simple language with complex thought.

Design

Impeccable cover design. The version I had came with psychedelic design which goes with the mind-boggling content in it.

Overall

In the end, I was begging the author to finish it off. The parts about incest were uncomfortable but they were bold brush strokes on the canvas. The book is a piece of art. But I would consider it very brave and somewhat daring of the author to let the audience see this work. It is very personal. It is about the author’s views on society (alienation, depression, anarchy), politics (China, communism, capitalism) and personal emotions (sibling love, family). The book is absurd for a reason. If said directly, the book had the potential to be an instrument of ideological war. But because it is based in an alternate dimension, we can safely call it science fiction.

This was my understanding of it. Feel free to differ.

3 stars out of 5

Previous Book Review – White Teeth

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