by Kurt Vonnegut


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There's been a timequake. And everyone--even you--must live the decade between February 17, 1991 and February 17, 2001 over again. The trick is that we all have to do exactly the same things as we did the first time--minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year, betting on the wrong horse again, marrying the wrong person again. Why? You'll have to ask the old science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This was all his idea.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399138980
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 09/28/1997
Pages: 1
Product dimensions: 0.10(w) x 0.10(h) x 0.10(d)

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) is the author of the novels Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973).

Date of Birth:

November 11, 1922

Date of Death:

April 11, 2007

Place of Birth:

Indianapolis, Indiana

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Cornell University, 1940-42; Carnegie-Mellon University, 1943; University of Chicago, 1945-47; M.A., 1971

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is the indispensible Vonnegut."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Wry and trenchant . . . highly entertaining."
—The New York Times Book Review

"His funniest book since Breakfast of Champions . . . There are nuggets of Vonnegutian wisdom throughout."

"Timequake is a novel by, and starring, Kurt Vonnegut . . . What Vonnegut does, which no one can do better, is give a big postmodern shrug . . . You've got to love him."
The Washington Post Book World

"Humorous, sardonic . . . Timequake makes for irresistible reading that's loaded with more important truths than it lets on . . . Moralizing has never been funnier."
Chicago Sun-Times

"Vonnegut is at his best."
Atlanta Journal & Constitution


On Friday, October 3, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Kurt Vonnegut, author of TIMEQUAKE.

Marlene T: Hello, Jesse and Mr. Vonnegut. Welcome!

Kurt Vonnegut:

Bookpg JK: Good evening, Kurt.

Kurt Vonnegut: [hearty voice] It's nice to be here.

Bookpg JK: In previous books, "timequakes" are random -- characters move back and forth. In your new book, a timequake is a one-way return that makes people live through everything in sequence, no change possible. Does this represent a real change in your thinking, or is it just a plot device?

Kurt Vonnegut: I will be 75 on November 11th. I can look back over three quarters of a century. And that is a rerun. Everything I did I had to do. Every mistake and every success. During the rerun, the successes turn out not to be as wonderful as you remember. In my wonderful book, TIMEQUAKE, Kilgore Trout says, "If it isn't a rerun dragging us through knothole after knothole, it's something just as mean and powerful."

Bookpg JK: Our audience can't hear you and so might be tempted to conclude that this is a very downbeat message. But you sound quite jolly.

Kurt Vonnegut: I could cry. Or I could laugh -- as indeed I do. Both are responses to insoluble problems with the same physical solution a way of throwing off useless chemicals. These are chemicals that we have secreted in order to make us run or fight -- and the thing is, we can't do either. So we laugh or cry. I choose to laugh...because there's less cleaning up to do afterward.

Question: If you experienced a timequake in your own life, what decade would you choose to repeat and why?

Kurt Vonnegut: A great question -- and I have thought about it. I'd pick the time between age 44 and 54. What's great about this age for men is that you are finally treated as a grown-up. And men are attractive to women at that age and are still reasonably good lovers.

Bookpg JK: Speaking of which, you point out that writers -- even if poor -- attract unnaturally pretty women. In TIMEQUAKE you say, "Someone should study this." How would they go about it?

Kurt Vonnegut: Well, they would get a grant and ask a sample of beautiful women why they made this mistake. The other side of the coin is a quotation from Kilgore Trout "There is no way a beautiful woman can live up to what she looks like for any length of time."

Question: What inspired your great concept "unstuck in time"? And do you feel that in our media-oriented society we are all to some degree unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim?

Kurt Vonnegut: What is insidious about the media -- TV mainly -- is that it locks us into the present. Otherwise we might travel to the past in our heads. One of my children, an adopted nephew, is a comedy writer on TV. All of his jokes have to be about what was on TV in the last six weeks, or no one would know what he was talking about!

Question: In TIMEQUAKE, you seem justifiably disturbed at the idea of electronic media usurping the book's position as a treasured American art form. With this in mind, do you think it's possible that future generations will ever spawn a "great" author?

Kurt Vonnegut: I think that even before there was TV, there were great writers who were unappreciated. Melville's MOBY DICK wasn't acknowledged as a great book until about 1925. So masterpieces do get neglected.

Bookpg JK: But will our attention spans become so shortened that a great novel will be in an easy-to-digest length -- say, no longer than many of your books? In that sense, aren't you more likely to become a classic author than the Updikes, Cheevers, and Mailers?

Kurt Vonnegut: Yes. And there may also -- in time -- be famous Hallmark greeting cards! That the novel was ever an important source of information is incredible. A reader has to put on shows in his or her head. That is not a widely available skill. And the cues for this show are minimal idiosyncratic arrangements in lines of only 26 phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and eight or so punctuation marks. The Jeffersonian ideal of a literate electorate is like expecting everybody to play the French horn.

Question: Your brother Bernard was dying while you were writing TIMEQUAKE. Did this influence the nature of Kilgore Trout's passing in your book or your feelings about winding up your career as a novelist?

Kurt Vonnegut: The movie "Mother Night" gave me stronger feelings about my own mortality than the death of my brother did.

Bookpg JK: Along those lines, everyone who doesn't know you likes to think that Dresden was the formative experience of your life. I think they'll be surprised to read in TIMEQUAKE that you believe that it would be a more personal event the death of your sister.

Kurt Vonnegut: Historians -- popular historians -- like to point to a single event to account for the actions of a human being. St. Paul on the road, Darwin visiting the Galapagos, Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. But life isn't really like that. Darwin had explored a great deal of the coasts of South America. I think I personally spent more time in the Galapagos than Darwin did -- 18 days. And Newton didn't need an apple to hit him on the head. We don't have sudden transformations. But it is possible to break a human being's self-respect in a single event a torture chamber or solitary confinement.

Question: If TIMEQUAKE is your last novel, will you continue to speak or lecture? What about short fiction? Any plans for more short stories?

Kurt Vonnegut: I hardly know. I won't write another book, I'm quite sure. I'm sick of it! But I might write another play -- I like that. And I write short bits for radio station WNYC. I am fully in print and I can look back and see it all. I got a fair hearing. If I hadn't, I might be writing frantically.

Question: What character best expresses your own philosophy of life?

Kurt Vonnegut: Emma Bovary, c'est moi. In history? I'd like to have been Eugene Debs, the great labor leader who conducted the first strike. He tied up all the railroads, and in every book I've read recently, he is quoted. He said "As long as there is a lower class, I'm in it. As long as there's a criminal class, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free." He was the Socialist candidate for president four times. But you are probably asking about my books. As an astute reviewer of one of my books pointed out -- as though he had caught me stealing -- I have never created a character. I think that is probably true. I don't write well-rounded, breathing characters. Writers get congratulated for doing that -- as if the world weren't already overpopulated! If you devote a book to developing a living, breathing character, you can't talk about anything else. If you introduce sexual love as a factor, you can't talk about anything else -- the reader won't let you. So you steer clear of those subjects. May I also say, the Bible is similarly flawed. We don't know the color of Jonah's eyes. We don't know what Mary was like when she was angry. What is interesting about all the people in the Bible is their situation. And in my books, I hope the situation is interesting.

Bookpg JK: You have said, in your role as a writing teacher, just give the character a problem, that is, have him or her want something.

Kurt Vonnegut: Everyone in a story should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. If a writing student has one character look into the eyes of another and see secrets there, I say that is like looking into the headlights of a car to see if it needs a tune-up. There isn't any information in anyone's eyes. Also, if a student explains in depth why a character does something, I tell the student, "Forget it -- you're not that smart." Also, I tell students "The reader is perfectly willing to believe that the character was born. And that the character gets up in the morning and shaves and brushes his teeth and gets in a car and passes through a tollbooth." I say, "Just start in the office!"

Bookpg JK: Gee, here the publishers seem to be constantly lowering standards, and you seem to be saying that readers, that endangered species, are actually pretty bright. Indeed, the two books on top of the bestseller list, COLD MOUNTAIN and Frank McCourt's memoir, are quite smart and challenging. And TIMEQUAKE, rumor hath it, opens on the Times list this weekend at number seven. Is it possible that this hardy band of readers is an evolutionary force like cockroaches -- you can't kill them?

Kurt Vonnegut: Quite right. But the numbers of books sold -- the top sellers -- are quite small compared to almost any other well-known product. William Styron pointed out that the great Russian novels were written for minuscule audiences. There was very low literacy in the Russian Empire when they were written. I met a man the other night. He was very happy. He had just been voted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. I'm sure those are nice people, too!

Question: What is the biggest fault with the '60s era, and what is the biggest problem facing Generation X as a result?

Kurt Vonnegut: When I give graduation addresses -- and I do give some -- I say it's criminal to use the term Generation X. That's just two clicks from the end! The '60s were beautiful in a way. I have a degree in anthropology, and I have looked at the way that disaffected young people built their own culture. They did it around some books -- Hesse and my CAT'S CRADLE -- but the big thing was really great music! What discredited the '60s was drugs. And also that women were still treated like s***. Those were the two bad things. The good thing They formed a family that welcomed every sort of young person. People need families. And the music was terrific!

Question: As one of this culture's most creative men, do you feel that the power of creativity will ultimately win over the power of chaos in the world?

Kurt Vonnegut: That is for you to decide. Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow -- whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.

Bookpg JK: This is like what Raymond Carver wrote in one of his last poems, that the act of writing made him feel blessed. Looking back, with a scant minute to go in this event, is that how you feel?

Kurt Vonnegut: Yes, in retrospect. It felt lousy at the time because I was also trying to make money. If there hadn't been that urgency, I would have been rewarded -- and I would have been aware of it.

Bookpg JK: Well, speaking for this assembly and for your millions of readers, we certainly feel rewarded.

Kurt Vonnegut: To quote Texas Guinan, who ran a nightclub in the '20s, "Hello, suckers."

Bookpg JK: And on that note, thanks, Kurt!

Kurt Vonnegut:

Customer Reviews

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Timequake 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
About a year and a half ago, some girl i know gave me a copy of this book and told my to read it, i took it just to be polite not really expecting to look at it, when i got home i was locked out with nothing to do but start reading this book and it changed my life. i had no idea who vonnegut was or what he wrote about. but i was instantly hooked, i loved the way it was written and the way the story broke away from itself and all off a sudden came together again. I since have read four of his other works and about twenty other books. i even started writing one of my own and i blame it all on kurt vonnegut and the girl who gave me the book. thank you both.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading six of Vonnegut's books in period of two months, I picked Timequake, thinking not much of it. I read the book in under 72 hours, put it down, and then read it 3 more times in a matter of weeks. Even though you do need to read some of his books to completely get this one, it's probably the best book I've ever read. Forget the classics, pick up this book because there is no possible way that you can not enjoy it.
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
More like a biography. Not that funny. Repitious. No story, just babbling.
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The premise is brilliant: Once upon a time the universe decided to rewind things ten years. Everyone has to relive the previous ten years over again. Some are put back in prison. Others are brought back to life. Everyone realizes rather quickly that they can't do anything to alter things. They relive an entire decade as slaves to their own former choices.Things get interesting when they re-approach the 10 year mark where the universe decided to do grand rewind. After living ten years on auto-pilot, people don't know what to do with free will!Unfortunately, the actual book doesn't live up to the brilliance of the plot. Vonnegut's meandering random style¿which in other works is unique and endearing¿is too scattered here. There are moments of brilliance but, in the end, too much confusion.Ting-a-ling!
-AlyssaE- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i just finished this this book. i think that vonnegut is hilarious. this book made me think and wonder why he made this book. it makes me sad that he has passed away : ( this book did confuse me a bit not being able to really follow the time quakes. but still an interesting book. i loved it
esoteric on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paper-thin plot, but interesting enough in its own mostly-autobiographical way. Poignant and beautiful at times, but Mr. Vonnegut mostly just comes across as curmudgeonly old man. But then I guess he was at this point.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Freakin' amazing! If you hate people you need to read this book. Seriously. It will make you hate them more. And enjoy your hatred more. Wow. Seriously. Wow.
flissp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just found this incredibly boring.
petrojoh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Vonnegut has delved into the territory of the cranky old man.
miketroll on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vonnegut would probably describe himself as a likeable old fart. This, his self-proclaimed last novel, was not so endearing. I wondered why, if the world had turned so sour on him, he wanted to tell everyone about it.
sflax on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Later work" often means "lesser work," but not in Vonnegut's case. Timequake reminded me of every reason I love Vonnegut. It was funny and sad, and occasionally bordered on mind-blowing. The passages about writing make it particularly enjoyable for those who like to write.
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Analogkid60 More than 1 year ago
Part Autobiography, Part Fiction, a Complete Joy If you read this book’s jacket, you already know the story. A timequake forces everyone back to ’91 for a ten year rerun. When it wears off and people don’t know how to react, failed sci-fi writer and veteran Vonnegut character, Kilgore Trout saves the day. I love the concept. I certainly wouldn’t mind reliving the 90’s, but the last decade was a real drag. The only criticism I have is that the story is minimized and the focus is on the author’s personal anecdotes and family stories. Then again, that’s Vonnegut. For the uninitiated, Vonnegut is the literary equivalent of pizza. He provides intellectual nourishment without being too preachy and overbearing. The thing I love most about him is the way he tells a ridiculous story in his deadpan, matter-of-fact tone. So, pour yourself a beverage of choice, put your feet up, and enjoy a delightful, effortless read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the amazimg booi on this nook even know its my faverite color
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tunic2 More than 1 year ago
I rarely read books more than once. There are just too many that sound good that I haven't gotten to yet. Timequake, however, is the exception to the rule. I have a copy above my desk and every now and then pull it off the shelf and read a chapter. Why? I'm not sure, but I do that with no other book. It's funny, clever, and insightful.
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