Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Falling Off?

Finally embarked on the third and final of the Kurt Vonnegut tomes I got last year from the Library of America, comprising Slapstick, Jailbird, Deadeye Dick and Galapagos. I've never read any of them before, despite being a huge fan of Vonnegut in my teens. I sort of got the impression he'd lost it somewhat as a writer after the triumph of Slaughterhouse 5, I suppose from reading various reviews, though I can't remember any. Perhaps I also developed a feeling of having grown out of him somewhere along the line? Can't say that this was a particularly conscious thing though.

My recent reading of Breakfast of Champions served to confirm my sense of his powers falling away, though I suppose I enjoyed it well enough, Vonnegut being the kind of writer you can simply have fun being in the company of even when he's not on peak form. But I've been a touch hesitant about getting going on this sequence of novels having got the distinct impression somewhere along the line that Slapstick was seen as a bit of disaster for his reputation.

I'm about halfway through that novel and strongly reminded of the kind of almost can't-be-bothered-ness I felt about Breakfast. It's as if he's forcing himself to go through the motions of writing a novel when he's no longer remotely interested in character, setting or theme. The strange thing is that this is in itself fascinating, as if a kind of anti-novel is being invented. It's like Beckett, except there's not the slightest whiff of the literary about it.

I suppose I'm not supposed to, but I like it.

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