PALM SUNDAY by Kurt Vonnegut

PALM SUNDAY

An Autobiographical Collage
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Is this "collage" of Vonnegut's occasional writings "a very great book by an American genius" (as he declares in a pretty hilarious mock-preface)? Or is it--as he goes on to suggest--a "blivit" (i.e. "two pounds of shit in a one-pound bag")? Well, it's neither, of course, and both fans and non-fans will find the Vonnegut they love or hate here. Starting out with a good strong polemic against censorship, he moves along to a moderately interesting family history--written mostly by his Uncle John, but spiced with highly Vonnegutian asides (about his grandfather: "This Albert Lieber, whose emotional faithlessness to his children destroyed the mind of my mother, along with prescribed barbiturates and alcohol, was a rich man's son"). Then come some college memories, a half-parodied "self-interview" for The Paris Review, and tributes to friends: William F. Buckley, Jr. ("I would give a million dollars to look like that"), Joseph Heller (a review of Something Happened), Irwin Shaw, Bob and Ray. And so it goes--with somewhat decreasing coherence--as Vonnegut includes Some commencement addresses; bits about his wives and children; essays on Twain, Swift, and CÉline; favorite songs (C&W tunes by the Statler Brothers); the introduction to a 1976 edition of Slaughterhouse Five (re Dresden--"One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I'm in"). Plus--at his very worst--a sophomoric sf story ("The Big Space Fuck") and an even more sophomoric, campy musical version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Throughout, a few themes are repeated a lot--his freethinker beliefs, the need for extended families, the literary-academic world's phoniness--and there are one-liners and aphorisms galore. So, though Vonnegut is just about right in giving himself a "C" for this book overall (Cat 's Cradle gets A+), it's quintessential KV--wildly sentimental but hard and funny on the surface--and sure to please his fans while offering sporadic items of interest to others.
Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
ISBN: 0385334265
Page count: 341pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1981




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