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“It’s the ), Vonnegut knew about pushing an audience’s buttons.Later, when he taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he won his students’ reluctant allegiance by eschewing aesthetic pieties and teaching them how to grab a reader’s attention.
The protagonist, Malachi Constant, the richest man in the world; .” And Salo, the Tralfamadorian robot astronaut, three-eyed, three-legged, four and a half feet tall, the color of a tangerine and more human than any human.
Vonnegut’s imagination would henceforth be his superpower.
Those old mass-market paperbacks you used to find him in, with their trippy covers and flaky pages, 50¢ used? Now here he is, decked out in the publishing equivalent of black tie: appendices, chronology, annotations, textual notes and a page layout, as the Library of America boilerplate puts it, “designed for readability as well as elegance.” Elegance?
There’s a story in the second volume called “The Big Space Fuck.” “I think I am the first writer to use ‘fuck’ in a title,” Vonnegut once boasted.
He had also studied anthropology, an experience, he later said, that “confirmed my atheism, which was the faith of my fathers anyway.
Religions were exhibited and studied as the Rube Goldberg inventions I’d always thought they were.” Now machines were taking control, so we needed to pretend that something else was in control.Or as he puts it in , “Gimcrack religions were big business.” The Age of Aquarius surely came as no surprise to him—the age of crystals and gurus and mystical hucksters.Charles Manson and Jim Jones surely came as no surprise, and neither did L.Ron Hubbard, a man who started writing science fiction but decided he was writing Scripture.* * * Rumfoord, too, is an artist, though his métier is theater.Now Vonnegut is making up the rules as he goes along.Like the millionaire Winston Niles Rumfoord, with whom the book begins, the story jumps around apparently at will.“It was about firing a spaceship with a warhead full of jizzum at Andromeda.” But never mind; the words cast their spell, the layout is forgotten and Kureishi’s question is answered. Some of them are worse than I remembered, but some of them are even better.The volumes begin with , to Vonnegut’s time in the public relations department at General Electric.For Fate (the determinations of divine providence), Vonnegut substitutes its opposite, Fortune (chance, chaos, luck). Reversal is the novel’s governing device, and irony its master trope. Even the prose has its falls, as moments of intensity tumble, with a flick of Vonnegut’s trademark bathos, into the banal: Constant sank into a wing chair again.He had to look away from all that beauty in order to keep from bursting into tears.