Vonnegut's first "novel" in seven years (and 14th overall) might by an extremely generous extension of the term be labeled an unassuming metafiction. Actually, it's unequal parts commonplace book, fragmentary autobiography, dystopian romance, and bemused meditation on our planet's presumable determination to destroy itself. The premise goes as follows: In the year 2001, "a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum, made everybody and everything do exactly what they'd been doing during the past decade . . . a second time": i.e., 2001 reverted to 1991, and "free will kicked in again" only after said decade had torturously re-run itself. One yearns to know what Thomas Berger might have made of this idea. Vonnegut, essentially, settles for employing it as an excuse to rummage through his own past and that of his alter-ego, the fictional science fiction writer Kilgore Trout. Accordingly, the novel about this "timequake" becomes a free-form farrago in which the author tenderly salutes and mourns his living and dead siblings, wives, and children; pays tribute to favorite books and writers; retells old jokes; reminisces about his experiences in WW II, and about his experiences also as a later respected public figure (visiting Nigeria after the Biafran War; giving a speech on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima); and woolgathers--often cloyingly--about the fate of "humanism" in an age dominated by technology. The book severely tests a reader's patience when it's padded with random bits of semi-relevant information and needless explanations (the plot of The Scarlet Letter; the full text of the 23rd Psalm). And yet, Vonnegut's fitful summaries of the life and writings of the Hunter Thompson-like Kilgore Trout are often very funny (the story "The Sisters B-36," set on "the matriarchal planet Booboo," really ought to have been written). So, as he himself might say, it goes. "We are here on earth to fart around" runs one of Vonnegut's more endearing pronouncements. Nobody does it better.