Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007, but in many ways, his insights have become more relevant, not less, in the interim. Issued on the first anniversary of his demise, Armageddon in Retrospect collects 12 previously unpublished writings on war, peace, and our global future. The volume is enhanced by Vonnegut's own quirky artwork and a deeply personal introduction by his son Mark.
When Kurt Vonnegut died in April 2007, the world lost a wry commentator on the human condition. Thanks to this collection of unpublished fiction and nonfiction, Vonnegut's voice returns full force. Introduced by his son, these writings dwell on war and peace, especially the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. The volume opens with a poignant 1945 letter from Pfc. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to his father in Indianapolis, presenting a vivid portrait of his harrowing escape from that city. The fiction, full of his characteristic humor, includes stories about time travel and the impossibility of peace in the world ("Great Day") and, in the title piece, a kind of mock Paradise Lost, Dr. Lucifer Mephisto teaches his charges about the insidious nature of evil and the impossibility of good ever triumphing. In his final speech, Vonnegut lets go some of his zingers (jazz is "safe sex of the highest order") and does what he always did best, tell the truth through jokes: "And how should we behave during the Apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another, certainly. But we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot. And get a dog, if you don't already have one." So it goes. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A worthy companion to the late Vonnegut's 2005 essay collection, A Man Without a Country, this collection of new and unpublished short fiction, nonfiction, and artwork examines the horrors of war with Vonnegut's trademark black humor and pessimistic criticism. Only a few of the 12 stories rely on the twists of reality and narrative present in Vonnegut's novels; the majority are carried by the characters' struggle with the absurdities of war and peace. Vonnegut's World War II experience as a prisoner of war in Dresden haunts the work, with multiple stories featuring American POWs in Germany. Completing the book are a nonfiction account of the firebombing of Dresden, a duplicate of a 1945 letter Vonnegut sent home to his father in Indianapolis after the bombing, and a copy of Vonnegut's final speech, written days before his death. The author's son also contributes an introduction. Readers of Vonnegut's books won't find any surprises here, but because he is at his sardonic best when working in short form, they won't be let down by his humor and poignancy, either. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/07.]
From the now-silent typewriter of the mordant humorist (A Man Without a Country, 2005, etc.), an uneven posthumous collection of fiction and nonfiction once again plumbing the madness and soul-destroying inhumanities of war. Following an introduction by the author's son Mark, the book opens with a 1945 letter former POW Vonnegut wrote to let his family know that he was alive. It is a masterpiece of understatement and concealment suffused with the rage that animated Vonnegut's writing to the very end. The second piece, one of the highlights of the volume, is a speech he did not live to deliver. It's irreverent, sardonic and elliptical. "If Jesus were alive today," he notes, "we would kill him with lethal injection. I call that progress." Next is an angry, detailed account of the Dresden bombing, the last nonfiction piece in the collection. Vonnegut blasts American pilots-they killed countless women and children, he asserts-and excoriates military strategists whose goal was to knock out the railroads, which were running two days after the bombing. The remainder of the collection is comprised of ten short stories, most dealing with war and violence, some with the experiences of POWs. The best of them, "Happy Birthday, 1951," is a touching but wrenching cautionary tale of the fascination of the very young with the machinery of war; its final image of a little boy on a ruined tank is almost unbearably poignant-and hopeless. The other stories are previously unpublished for good reason; they are repetitive and predictable, little more than discarded shavings from the rich sculptures of Vonnegut's major works. In places, we hear that unique, vigorous voice; in others, only the sad but certainecho of "nothing gold can stay."
Praise for Kurt Vonnegut and Armageddon in Retrospect
“Gripping...demonstrates Vonnegut’s mind-boggling evolution as a writer, the manner in which he learned to cloak his rage in hilarity, to cop to his immense despair without surrendering to it.”—Salon
“A terrific post-traumatic witnessing.”—Roy Blount, The New York Times Book Review
“The dark irony that lies beneath Vonnegut's wry, satiric work is always in the service of the individual...and against the system.”—The Boston Globe
“Vonnegut has proved more enduring than the counterculture that embraced him.”—The Village Voice
“A voice like his doesn't fade. Vonnegut had a way of making the bleakest thought seem insanely funny.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune