Son of a famous writer, newly graduated from Swarthmore (where like all his classmates he was really a ""Swarthmore...



Son of a famous writer, newly graduated from Swarthmore (where like all his classmates he was really a ""Swarthmore major""), and a confirmed ""grace addict"" who expected the good vibes to rain down in the form of ""dancing lessons from God,"" Mark Vonnegut saw only one honorable course open to him in 1970; he would become a good hippie. So with his girlfriend, Virge, his noble dog Zeke and his faithful VW, Mark headed for British Columbia where with others he proceeded to build an organic Eden out of the wreckage of an isolated, abandoned farm. There had been hints before that the good vibes might go sour--the army had tagged him with a psychiatric 4F; there were periods when he was confused about things like how long to shake hands, bouts of drinking. But hadn't he learned from Laing that a little madness is the proper existential reaction to a sick society? Then, after a communal mescaline trip that didn't quite go right for him, even Eden became a fearful place . . . the goats didn't like him; Virge went to California and (so he believed) was killed in an earthquake; he had caused the earthquake; the world was falling apart and no one else seemed to notice. And he had all this INCREDIBLE ENERGY--no need to eat or sleep, ever. Despite his friends' desperate attempts to deal with the ""poetry"" of his intensifying schizophrenia, Vonnegut ended up a straightjacketed, non-functioning psychotic, reachable only through Thorazine and subjected to shock treatments. He emerged a firm believer in the need to control his disease biochemically. But while he rejects the idea that understanding the content of schizophrenic delusions can be a route to curing them, he is able to take us along on those ""cosmic jaunts"" where he experienced ""astral sex"" had two-minute cram courses in all of Russian literature, and heard the ""snap-crackle-pop"" voices of eternity. And having lived to its logical extremity the notion that mental illness is a virtuous response to the sins of civilization, Vonnegut is prepared to take a more detached view of the ways in which his personal insanity and the world's ""tended to run together."" God teaches dancing in peculiar ways; this is a disarmingly open, engrossing, oddly graceful chronicle of one of his more painful lessons.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 1975


Page Count: -

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1975