Return of the Old Rambler, doing a replay on his 1981 autobiographical collage Palm Sunday, this time pasting together a memoir from speeches, forewords, articles, and so on written since 1981. Norman Mailer invented this format with Advertisements for Myself (1959) and no one, including Mailer, has done it as well since. Vonnegut adds plenty of humor to his new model but not much sinew. There's something truly self-defeating about parenthetical asides that leave each page of copy slack with interruptions. He includes vague forewords to Franklin Library editions of his more recent novels; writes of his brushes with Salman Rushdie (who, despite a friendship with Vonnegut, shot down one of his novels, with Vonnegut seriously thinking of adding another team to the hit list on Rushdie); comments on the firebombing of Dresden; recalls dead friends who appeared in Slaughterhouse-Five and dead fellow novelists Nelson Algren, Donald Barthelme, Hemingway, James Jones, Irwin Shaw, and others; and discusses his own incompetence as a speech-writer, his dislike of or inability to read his own works, and a suicide attempt that was foiled by a stomach pump. Vonnegut pictures himself as a depressive, though his less-than-faint hope for humanity is not as corroded as Mark Twain's during his later years. Vonnegut's most well-developed theme is in the title, as he weighs fates worse than death, including crucifixion (enslavement by the Reverend Jim Jones of the Guyana Kool-Aid horror doesn't measure up). His most memorable moments are about his first wife Jane and her death from cancer; his architect father, who never got a chance to show his stuff; and his deep feelings for fellow Dresden POW Bernard V. O'Hare. Vonnegut writes best about people, while his think pieces are sliced up with asides or dry-gulched by his alter ego. Patchy.