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Slapstick or Lonesome No More!: A Novel by…
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Slapstick or Lonesome No More!: A Novel (original 1976; edition 1999)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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3,628301,452 (3.77)25
Member:RMRM
Title:Slapstick or Lonesome No More!: A Novel
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:Dial Press Trade Paperback (1999), Paperback, 288 pages
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Slapstick: Or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut (1976)

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
A fun, quirky little book that puts forth a utopia in a world of apocalypse. Swain, who seems to be a caricature version of old Vonnegut, is a powerless President of the United States, numbed by pills, old and tired. His only contribution as POTUS is an imposed system of new names that creates artificial families, which unites those who feel like they belong nowhere, and to no one. Dukes and kings rule the land now, there is war and death, yet all this matters very little to Swain; all will be well as long as people are lonesome no more.

Vonnegut takes on the human condition in this book, cleverly, in a period where all has gone to hell. Yet, people seem to be happy and functioning in their new families, which is perhaps the main message. "History is merely a list of surprises", says Dr. Swain. We can only prepare ourselves for being surprised again in the future, and these surprises would perhaps be a little less devastating if people weren't so isolated, so rootless.
1 vote bartt95 | Jan 15, 2017 |
Kurt Vonnegut's 1999 cult classic with a signature Vonnegut quirky criticism and trademark perverse, satirical humor, this later and less successful work of Vonnegut's caught my eye alone on a dusty shelf one day in our basement. I decided to give it a read and found that although not as classically deep and profound as works such as SH5, Mother Night and Cat's Cradle, it did spurn in me curiosity and interest and, at times, wound me around with its darkly dystopian witticism and blatant ridiculousness as is common in even the least successful of Vonnegut's works. The story revolves around fraternal disfigured twins Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain and Eliza Swain., the claimed more intelligent of the two being the flamboyant and reckless Eliza Swain, despite her illiteracy, and Wilbur Daffodil--11 Swain being the ancient, wizened last U.S. President and King of Manhattan who is writing his autobiography (as described in the novel's beginning in the first person). Wilbur has a young pregnant granddaughter, Melody Oriole--12 von Peterswald, who resides with her lover, Isadore Raspberry--19 Cohen. The global setting has changed drastically from ''the past'', the Chinese having adapted themselves to a genetically-manipulated miniature thumb-size to save resources and a futuristic, dystopian, ravaged America now split into several warring states. The novel opens with Wilbur describing the infancy and childhood of him and his sister, their struggles with their abominable, Neanderthal-like looks, their parents' ignorance to their true genius when together, their separation which induces them to act like imbeciles, and the unfortunate later life and death of the ruthlessly careless Eliza Swain. The novel maintains a laughable and darkly genre, all the while describing an apocalyptic last generation on Earth. While not highly acclaimed, I was moved by particular moments of it and consider it to be overall one of Vonnegut's most thought-provoking and idiosyncratic novels. One section, the introduction or foreword, particularly intrigued me--it was a short preface describing Vonnegut's actual adult life and experiences with family, life's challenges, and the death of his sister that was related in the story of Eliza Swain. Vonnegut himself describing Slapstick as ''the closest thing [he] will ever come to writing an autobiography'', this novel, along with Fates Worse Than Death and SH5, was one of the few that gave me genuine insight into the experiences and thoughts of the author himself and seemed strangely authentic, no matter the level of perverse extraneousness. ( )
  EllieBee115 | Jan 9, 2017 |
This isn't your typical post-apocalyptic novel. Of course not. It's Vonnegut. Through genetic manipulation, the Chinese have shrunk to thumb-size and smaller to save resources. America has declined, mainly due to over-consumption, and has fragmented into warring states. And fraternal twins are born who resemble neanderthals. Separate, they're fairly normal, other than their appearances, but when together, they're a genius. One of them becomes President of what's left of the United States. This is the story of his life. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
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. ( )
2 vote Joeyzaza82 | Jul 30, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (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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