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Slapstick, or, Lonesome no more! : a novel…
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Slapstick, or, Lonesome no more! : a novel (original 1976; edition 1976)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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Member:jalevy03
Title:Slapstick, or, Lonesome no more! : a novel
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:New York, N.Y. : Dell, [1989], c1976.
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Slapstick: Or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut (1976)

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Vonnegut combines a stark religious skepticism (don't recall that atheism was referenced specifically) with the loss and sometime cruelty of life, coming up with a science fiction novel about ... what? Broadly, how modern American life perverts the human animal: the illusion of such a life, what nevertheless might still be hoped for, how much is tiresomely predictable. At one point he calls it "the low comedy of living", and both story and tone fairly justify the title. Hence slapstick: that laughter which emerges when the choice is either laugh and shrug, or pull back in horror or despair. It's interesting Vonnegut treats of this theme: religion is a standard response to it, the bleakness of Vonnegut's imagined future precisely the scenario which calls so stridently for spiritual belief and religion.

The bleak outlook underpins the book's signature lines, "Hi ho!" and "and so on". These are peppered throughout, ostensibly the flip verbal tics of the narrator, delivered immediately after sharing some profoundly sad bit of news or describing some cruel behavior of another human being. They are that, but also cathartic.

I'd vaguely associated various science fiction-y settings and other trappings with Vonnegut, but this was my first of his novels and I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of farce. That is, there is plenty of farce in the book, but it's not centred on the science fiction aspects of it, particularly. His post-apocalypse U.S. does require a bit of hand-waving for the backstory involving Chinese miniaturization and gravity manipulation, but Vonnegut better predicts future political landscape than did Gibson in his Sprawl Trilogy. The premise of artificial families and cross-cutting cleavages inherent in a healthy American democracy were strong ideas, even if delivered in the guise of a Marx Brothers movie.

The remainder of the satire focuses on the interchangeable parts of the American Machine, and the resulting unhappiness of so many of its citizens. The idea of exploring this through the characters of twins provides a nice allegory: brilliant together, dull and litigious when separated. And so easy to skewer pretensions of the liberal, wealthy elite and the science literati.

It's been a long time since I read a book in one day. Curious that my first Vonnegut, picked up somewhat on a whim, would be such a quick read.

//

My edition includes decorations by an uncredited illustrator, apart from the A Hirschfield caricature appearing on the dedication page. ( )
1 vote elenchus | Dec 16, 2015 |
This book was my introduction to Vonnegut, and I LOVED it. I read it for the first time years and years ago, and it has remained my all time favorite book. Yip. This one. #1 on my Desert Island list. I never really understood all the praise SH5 got, I like it enough, but it was no where near as entertaining as this book. It's absurd and grotesque and makes perfect sense. If you haven't read it, you should. ( )
1 vote Joeyzaza82 | Jul 30, 2015 |
Not as funny as SH5 but still vintage KV ( )
  bob101 | May 14, 2015 |
One of the more surreal ones but an amusing piece of dystopian fiction. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
Somehow, I'd never read this 36 year old Vonnegut novel. Good stuff. Not outstanding stuff, but good stuff. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Oct 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
A brief outline of this lesser-known novel’s plot will help the listener better understand the interview. Even as children, protagonist Wilbur Swain and his twin Eliza are monstrous in appearance: freakishly tall, awkward, sporting six fingers on each hand, possessed of “Neanderthal features.” Their distressed parents at first consider them of subnormal intelligence, and remain ashamed of them even after the twins reveal their precocious theories about gravity, evolution, and extended families. The parents soon take the advice of an obviously twisted child psychologist and separate the twins. They are of course bereft without each other, but get back together as adults to publish a book on good child rearing. (Vonnegut reveals to Miller that his model for Wilbur Swain was Vonnegut’s friend Dr. Benjamin Spock, of baby-book fame.) Long into the future in a decaying U.S.A., Wilbur runs for president under the slogan “Lonesome no more.” He wins and takes office, but his creation of artificial extended families for every American can’t stop the demise of a society under a twin assault by microscopic Chinese, who have found a way to shrink themselves so they can invisibly invade the U.S. , and by microscopic invading Martians who, when inhaled by humans, give us a disease called the “Green Death.”
added by elenchus | editWNYC, William Rodney Allen (Dec 12, 2013)
 
Whatever it is, one is left feeling empty by "Slapstick," Emptiness, conveyed with grace and style, still amounts to almost nothing. That is why, for all the new chic skill Mr. Vonnegut has brought to his latest novel, it still seems as if he has given up storytelling after all.
 
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"Call me but love, and I'll be new baptiz'd ..."
--Romeo
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Dedicated to the memory of Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Norvell Hardy, two angels of my time.
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This is the closest I will ever come to writing an autobiography.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385334230, Paperback)

Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, centenarian, the last President of the United States, King of Manhattan, and one-half (along with his sister, Eliza) of the most powerful intelligence since Einstein, is penning his autobiography. He occupies the first floor of a ruined Empire State Building and lives like a royal scavenger with his illiterate granddaughter and her beau. Buffeted by fluctuating gravity, the U.S. has been scourged by not one, but two lethal diseases: the Green Death and the Albanian Flu. Consequently, the country has fallen into civil war. (Super-intelligent, miniaturized Chinese watch the West self-destruct from the sidelines.) Swain stayed at the White House until there were no citizens left to govern, then moved to deserted New York City, where he writes a thoughtful missive before death.

In Slapstick, Vonnegut muses on war, man's hubris, and the awful, crippling loneliness humans are freighted with--but, miraculously, the book still manages to delight and amuse. Absurd, knowing, never depressing, Slapstick kindles hope--for the possibility of wisdom, perhaps; for human resiliency, surely.

It's best to end with a quote from the prologue wherein the author discourses on The Meaning of It All, or at least This Book: "Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go off looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.
I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, 'Please--a little less love, and a little more common decency.'"
Amen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:45 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This hilarious, wickedly irreverent farce presents an apocalyptic vision seen through the eyes of the current King of Manhattan (and last President of the United States).

(summary from another edition)

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