Kurt Vonnegut’s final three novels, written in the late 1980s and early 1990s and released in a single volume by the Library of America, feature his bold futurist and darkly pessimistic views laced with blunt humor.
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“. . .bold futurist and darkly pessimistic views laced with blunt humor . . .”
The three works combine elements from his earlier satirical, and controversial, 1970s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, banned in many schools for its language and anti-Christian views.
In “Bluebeard” (1987), Armenian-American Rabo Karabekian sits down to write his memoir. Although a talented abstract expression painter, he is an embarrassment because his paintings literally fell to shreds because he used faulty paints. Like his creator, this character also is an artist and prisoner of war.
The main character in Hocus Pocus (1990), Eugene Debs Hartke, fails as an academic upon his return to the U.S. following military duty in the Vietnam war. Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical narrative weaves racism and globalization into a story in which Hartke is imprisoned, and then blamed for orchestrating a prison breakout.
His final novel, Timequake (1997), is“time-tripping” science fiction that blends personal history with excerpts from past novels, guided by his alter ego, science-fiction writer Kilgore Trout.
Vonnegut always feared humans would continue to fight wars, and, a term now heard in the presidential campaign, even carpet-bomb cities. He prophesied the world would suffer an environmental calamity. Shortly before his death, at a speaking engagement, he was asked what do in an apocalypse. People “should be unusually kind to one another, certainly,” he responded. “But we should also stop being so serious.”
This compact volume, a treasure to read and own, also includes Vonnegut’s personal essays and speeches, one just before he died In 2007 at age 84 from a fall, when he was still objecting to nuclear weapon stockpiling.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla