Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Kurt Vonnegut's recent death has inspired lots of people to pick up his books, including my book club. Supposedly this was a book written by Vonnegut on his fiftieth birthday as a means of clearing away some of the stuff and characters in his head and books and it certainly reads that way in part. The two primary characters are Kilgore Trout, an obscure science fiction writer, and Dwayne Hoover, a car salesman. What plot there is follows the parallel lives of these two men as Trout descends upon the town of Midland City, where Dwayne is losing his grip on sanity. The book sets itself up for the moment when Dwayne reads one of Trout's novels and is convinced that he is the only person with free will and everyone else around him are machines. This leads to a moment of violence that is mostly anticlimactic. Mostly the book's purpose is to give Vonnegut a place to explore his ideas about humanity, free will, the environment, violence, and more. The book does feel a little "overstuffed" with all these random elements thrown in, sometimes with little or no context. I enjoyed the end where Vonnegut himself becomes a character as the novelist and the resulting points his presence makes as a commentary on the nature of the relationship between novelist and the reader (also through his drawings included in the text) and with his characters.