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Fates Worse Than Death (1992)

Fates Worse Than Death (1992)

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3.86 of 5 Votes: 1
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0425134067 (ISBN13: 9780425134061)

About book Fates Worse Than Death (1992)

One of the main themes of Vonnegut’s career, and of these essays, is that families, and from them our own personal psyches, have been devolved by modern life. The best we can do with its “rootlessness, mobility, and impossibly tough-minded loneliness” (35) is synthetic families, such as AA, the military, artists or (God-forbid) church. Most of this collection, in fact, critiques our modern (early 90’s) world, with a minor key given to the failures of Christianity. To the latter, “What I can’t stand are sermons which say that to believe in the divinity of Jesus is a way to win.” (239) Truly winning has nothing to do with it, but how fascinating that it takes someone who hates the religion to point it back on track! To the former, oh, where to start! Statistics tend to distract a narrative, but in this case, Vonnegut’s gem facts make his argument without seeming like an ‘argument’. Namely these: that the average WW2 soldier who died was 26, the average Vietnam soldier was 20; the antebellum suicide rate for slave owners was higher than for slaves; the average American child watches 18,000 TV murders before it graduates from high school. We are a sad people… What else is wrong with us? “Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation.” (110)“If Western Civilization were a person, we would be directing it to the nearest meeting of War Preparers Anonymous.” (135) And yet, “Should addicts of any sort hold high offices in this or any other country? Absolutely not, for their first priority will always be to satisfy their addiction, no matter how terrible the consequences may be—even to themselves.” (136) “What other fates worse than death could I name? Life without petroleum?” (144)“I listen to the ethical pronouncements of the leaders of the so-called religious revival going on in this country, including those of our president, and am able to distill only two firm commandments from them. The first commandment is this: ‘Stop thinking.’ The second commandment is this: ‘Obey.’” (158)So how does one live in such an environment? Seven steps…1.tReduce and stabilize your population.2.tStop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.3.tStop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.4.tTeach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.5.tStop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.6.tStop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean and stupid.7.tAnd so on. Or else. (112)And if you can manage that, and you want to write about it, Vonnegut often offers advice, although this is only one of two books I know of, in which that advice includes a) use the right words, regardless of how often or how simple (such as, “to be or not to be”, which wouldn’t pass in college writing today) and b) do not feel compelled to write a story in which nothing much happens.

I was first introduced to Vonnegut through his fiction, which is a good portion of what he's written. And that those works are great - he has some unique and interesting ideas, and he has the ability to wrap a funny, compelling, and meaningful story around them.I eventually stumbled upon the group of Vonnegut's publications, like this one, which feature him speaking in his own voice, presenting his experiences and ideas first hand. And to me, that was so utterly refreshing. Reading his fiction, you can just tell that there's a very interesting man behind the words. Reading his thoughts unfiltered offers glimpse after glimpse into the life he lived. But, when those thoughts themselves are somewhat lackluster, the reading experience loses a bit of it's appeal. That's how I felt with this book. In it, Vonnegut quotes a book that claims aging American humorists inevitably end up "mouthing sardonic fables in a bed of gloom." I'm sorry to say it, but much of the supposed substance here is just the essence of that bed of gloom. Now that the thrill of hearing from Vonnegut himself has somewhat worn off for me, the thoughts he has to offer here are mostly just negative, and often uninteresting. That being said, it's not all bad: there are indeed a few shining moments in here.In any case, this book was certainly not a sign of Vonnegut's impending doom in this realm of writing, as the excellent semi-novel Timequake was still yet to come. Though his approach is quite different, Vonnegut manages to accomplish there something along the lines what he was trying to do here.

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What a wonderful book full of great ideas from one of our greatest writers. Out of all Vonnegut's Essays books I think this is my favorite. It's put together a little different than Palm Sunday. It is more linear than just putting various essays in any given order. I feel he puts some of his greatest ideas out in this book and it is hard to put it down, because you want to know what he's going to say next. It is much more personal than his other reflective books, but it will make you laugh as well as think throughout the whole thing. I highly recommend this one, especially for anyone who loves his novels.

I liked reading a lot of Vonnegut's novels when I was in high school and college, but recently I don't enjoy him as much. This book, written in the early 1990s, is subtitled "An Autobiographical Collage" and it rambles from place to place, story to story, without much purpose. Vonnegut comes across as a pessimist who knows he used to be funnier. Those who enjoy Vonnegut will enjoy reading episodes from his life and the lives of his friends. Those who don't like Vonnegut will be bored, or perhaps offended by the incessant name-dropping.

I love Vonnegut memoirs, and this one is right on par with Palm Sunday. As someone interested in religion, I appreciated how directly Kurt addresses his own atheism/sloppy Unitarianism, and what he perceives as the failures of Christianity. It always surprises me how much I enjoy the perspectives of this smoky old curmudgeon. This book was written at about the same time as his novel "Hocus Pocus," which is one of his most negative and weakly written novels. It's strange how this memoir then speaks with the "younger" (confident and likable) Vonnegut voice, as heard in novels like "Breakfast of Champions," and which returns later in "Timequake" in particular. I was lucky enough to purchase my copy of this one at the KV memorial museum in Indianapolis, which is worth a visit if you're ever in Indy.

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