Finishing Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick the other day was both painful and a relief. The last thirty or so pages are excruciatingly bad. It's as if the writer has given up all pretence that he's even trying to write a novel. In fact, I'm not even sure there is an ending in anything other than the technical sense that he tells us it's officially over. If you were to ask me how it ended I wouldn't know: I just know I got to the final page and closed the thing.
And I don't intend, at this point in time at least, to go on with the other three novels in the collection, even though I suspect they're an improvement. (They couldn't be worse.) How did the writer of Slaughterhouse 5 sink so low, so quickly? Had he written himself out with his masterpiece?
Fortunately I had the pleasure of reading my birthday gift from Karen twice through in the same period. The work in question goes by the handy title: The Right Word - Roget and his Thesaurus. It's a cheerful picture book in the Erdmans Books for Young Readers series on the unlikely topic of the life of Roget himself (it seems he practised medicine in Manchester!) and it pulled off the miracle of making me feel young. Seriously lovely stuff. Now that's one I'll be reading again soon.