Notes from the Now

Armageddon in Retrospect (Vonnegut)

In literature on September 27, 2009 at 11:23 am

Let me first give Kurt Vonnegut (wikipedia) his due respect, he’s one of the most influential writers of the past 50 years, with a voice that’s clearly distinct and uniquely American.

Slaughterhouse Five remains one of the great “gateway” pieces of literature, it opens up the entire world of literature, and for many youth might represent the first time that their schooling asks them to think critically and imaginatively about their world.  Incidentally, reading Slaughterhouse 5 in the 9th grade was the first time I was made aware of the University of Chicago, which has since had a significant impact on my life.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve read (or reread) quite a few of Vonnegut’s books:  Timequake, Hocus Pocus, Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, Galapogos, Wompeters, Foma & Granafalloons, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Man Without a Country, and just now, Armageddon in Retrospect.

Armageddon in Retrospect is a posthumous collection of otherwise unpublished short stories, artwork, letters, and a commencement speech.  Perhaps just as interesting, is the foreword written by Kurt Vonnegut’s son Mark, which serves to illuminate different aspects of the writer’s life.

As you’d expect from a cobbled together collection, it’s woefully uneven, and even though Vonnegut’s voice is as distinct as ever, it’s simply not in the league of his best work.   I’d say it’s only for real Vonnegut fans, and then too, it’s the foreword by Kurt’s son, the graduation speech, and a few of the stories that will be memorable.  The most notable piece herein is “Wailing Shall Be in All Streets” his early account of his capture after the Dresden firebombing and the work of removing corpses from the ruins (which I’d have to admit is in the league of his best work, and serves to highlight the unevenness of the collection).

  1. […] Armaged­don in Ret­ro­spect (Von­negut) — It was thor­oughly uneven, it was thor­oughly Vonnegut. […]

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