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Old Codger

Dale Peck

11 December 1997
Timequake 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 219 pp., £15.99, October 1997, 0 224 03640 8
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... KurtVonnegut’s latest book, and, according to its author, his last, is almost impossible to appreciate without extensive knowledge of his previous work. As far as I can tell, this is deliberate and it can be ...

Father of the Light Bulb

J. Robert Lennon: Kurt Vonnegut

22 February 2018
Kurt VonnegutComplete Stories 
edited by Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield.
Seven Stories, 911 pp., £29.99, November 2017, 978 1 60980 808 2
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... For decades​ , KurtVonnegut was an unshakeable, if unconventional, part of the American literary canon: even if his books didn’t find a lot of traction in academia, they were in every high school library. That’s where I ...

Oedipal Wrecks

Michael Mason

26 March 1992
Fates Worse than Death 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 240 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 224 02918 5
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... KurtVonnegut will be 70 this year. At this age he would indeed be a remarkable writer if his latest book – which is a collection of occasional pieces in the vein of the earlier Wampeters Foma and Granfaloons ...

Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann

17 March 1983
Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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Bluebeard 
by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... In a recent interview, KurtVonnegut rated his latest novel, Deadeye Dick, at B-. The gesture is disarming, and no doubt his critics will conclude that he has got it just about right. But if we start from the tacit assumption that ...

Vonnekit

Michael Mason

7 February 1980
Jailbird 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 246 pp., £5.50, October 1980, 0 224 01772 1
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... suppose that America does not really exist, and that her journalists and novelists are making it all up to entertain us. But America undoubtedly does exist, her problems are often akin to ours, and Vonnegut is a novelist to be taken seriously. It is true, of course, that no comment on recent events in Britain is intended in Jailbird. And, while a serious comment on America is intended, the novel has ...
7 November 1985
Galapagos 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 269 pp., £9.50, October 1985, 0 224 02847 2
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A Family Madness 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 315 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 340 38449 2
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A Storm from Paradise 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 188 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 85635 582 8
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Samarkand 
by John Murray.
Aidan Ellis, 255 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 85628 151 4
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The Sicilian 
by Mario Puzo.
Bantam, 410 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 593 01001 9
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Putting the boot in 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 192 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 224 02332 2
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... KurtVonnegut’s new novel finds him on old ground. All his hallmarks are prominently here: the cute narrative manner belying an apocalyptic message (the end of the world is once again nigh); the little ‘so it ...
20 October 1994
Closing Time 
by Joseph Heller.
Simon and Schuster, 464 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 671 71907 6
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... destruction, and has started a nuclear war by mistake. It is closing time all round. You have to like the narrative egoism which says that if Yossarian is going to die, everyone is going to die. KurtVonnegut appears in this book as well as Heller himself, because Lew was in Dresden when Vonnegut was, but the best literary jokes involve the repeated appearance of the enigmatic figure with red ...

President Gore

Inigo Thomas: Gore Vidal

10 May 2007
Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964-2006 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 316 02727 8
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... in the pool, which was even more impressively blue than the sea at the foot of the cliff. Sunshine, cypresses, cicadas, scented air, the physical drama: all the sense-heightening Mediterranean stuff. KurtVonnegut, a house guest, had disappeared: his photographer wife, Jill Krementz, couldn’t find him anywhere on the eight acres of the Vidal estate. Vidal, who seemed to know something about Vonnegut ...

Sinister Blandishments

Edmund White: Philip Hensher

3 September 1998
Pleasured 
by Philip Hensher.
Chatto, 304 pp., £14.99, August 1998, 0 7011 6728 9
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... re right about the East. A solution has gone. But it will be back, because we need a solution so much, we need the opposite of what we want, so that we can live our lives.’ This idea – which KurtVonnegut suggested so many years ago in Cut’s Cradle, his book about an island divided into two warring countries by its leaders, who recognise that their people need the idea of an opposition – ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue

6 November 1986
Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... Amis’s Gregory Riding, to describe his sensations on being fellated – ‘for a few seconds every cell in my body shakes with ravenous applause’ – fell back exhausted upon the prose style of KurtVonnegut, who describes his starving POW licking a spoonful of malt syrup: ‘A moment went by, and then every cell in Billy’s body shook him with ravenous gratitude and applause.’ But only a ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland

17 July 1997
Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... the ‘Wobblies’. Westerns are traditionally conservative in their political philosophy (one can draw fanciful conclusions from the fact that Hitler was addicted to the ersatz Westerns of Kurt May, and even as President of the US, Ronald Reagan looked as if he’d just walked off the Death Valley set). The Man of the Forest (1921) is one of the more ‘scenic’ of Grey’s novels, set in ...

Nutmegged

Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis.

10 May 2001
The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... train-wrecks. Of his pieces on nuclear weapons and global warming I will merely say that they are virtuously impressive. It remains to ask two questions. The first may seem a bit academic. Why did KurtVonnegut, as reported in one of these reviews, call the central figure of his novel Galapagos ‘James Wait’ – a name pre-empted long before, and with good reason, by an even better writer ...

Smorgasbits

Ian Sansom: Jim Crace

15 November 2001
The Devil's Larder 
by Jim Crace.
Viking, 194 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 0 670 88145 7
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... men. Who else but rich fathers could spare the money for tuition fees, for examination bribes, for graduation robes?’ The narrator sounds like a college student giving a commencement address, or KurtVonnegut without the jokes: a voice assuming a certain wisdom. Later in Continent, Crace tells the story of an elderly calligrapher and explains the old man’s careful procedures: ‘He is seeking ...
17 November 1983
The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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Legion 
by William Peter Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... even attractive to read is worthy of a little – just a little – attention. Novelists from Balzac, Dickens and Huysmans to Lampedusa have given us set-piece descriptions of elaborate meals, and KurtVonnegut has recently (in Deadeye Dick) done us the courtesy of providing a few exotic recipes. But not till The Antarctica Cookbook, as far as I know, has there been a novel whose fictional ...

The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne

3 September 1981
David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... This has already enjoyed great celebrity in the United States. Navasky is a graduate of the Yale Law School, has worked on Monocle and the New York Times, and became editor of the Nation in 1978. KurtVonnegut, E.L. Doctorow, Studs Terkel and Tom Wicker are among the admirers quoted on the dust-jacket; and, as if that weren’t enough, Navasky himself twinkles out on the back flap in a checked ...

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