Kurt Vonnegut has often pointed out the ridiculous ways our society has conducted itself. Now, as both a character in and a chronicler of a bizarre event at the millennium, Vonnegut manages to make some sense of life as he's lived it - and observed it - for more than seventy years. According to Vonnegut's alter ego, science fiction writer Kilgore ...
Kurt Vonnegut has often pointed out the ridiculous ways our society has conducted itself. Now, as both a character in and a chronicler of a bizarre event at the millennium, Vonnegut manages to make some sense of life as he's lived it - and observed it - for more than seventy years. According to Vonnegut's alter ego, science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, a global timequake will occur in New York City on February 13, 2001. It is the moment when the universe suffers a crisis of conscience. Should it expand or make a great big bang? It decides to back up a decade to 1991, making everyone in the world endure ten years of deja-vu and a total loss of free will - not to mention reliving every nanosecond of one of the tawdriest and most hollow decades. In 1996, dead centre of the 'rerun', Vonnegut is wrestling again with Timequake I, a book he couldn't write the first time and won't be able to now. As he struggles, he addrresses, with his trademark wicked wit, the relationship between memory and deja-vu, humanism, suicide, the Great Depression and World War Two as the last generational character builders, the loss of American eloquence, the obsolescent thrill of reading books, and what 'extended family' really means.
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-08-04 Its publisher calls this Vonnegut's "first full-length work of fiction in seven years" (since the novel Hocus Pocus), which seems like a polite way to avoid claiming it as a novel. It's certainly not that, nor is it, strictly speaking, a collection of stories. It is, rather, a good-natured and delightful ramble around the problem of not being able to get a book to work. Using his science-fictional alter ego Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut talks about a recalcitrant book of Trout's whose premise would have been that "a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum'' occurs, creating a 10-year hitch in time in which everyone is forced to live that period of their lives over again, every word and action exactly repeated, from 1991 until 2001, at which point their lives move forward once more. It is a nice conceit, and Vonnegut and Trout have some fun with it, all interwoven with anecdotes about the Vonnegut family, how it feels to be an aging author and suchlike. There are plenty of Vonnegut gems for the taking (he and William Styron agree at one point that only 17% of people in the world have lives worth living), but the effect of the book is more like a relaxed, jokey conversation than anything else. Call it a patchwork of brief, semi-fictional essays; no matter, Vonnegut is always good company. (Sept.)
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