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review 2017-08-25 02:18
Review: The Sirens of Titan
The Sirens Of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

I was one of those high school kids with zero direction in life. I picked classes based on factors such as likability of teacher, likelihood of cute girls in the class, and the way the class name sounded in my ear. This is how I ended up in a Contemporary Literature class my senior year. I was not yet a passionate reader—that would come years later—but I liked the teacher and figured it would be an easy A. (I don't recall, however, if there were any cute girls in the class.)

Contemporary Lit was where I first was introduced to Vonnegut. (We also read Kerouac, Kosiński, maybe some others.) I wasn't impressed with any of them: I thought they were all a bunch of irrelevant weirdos who were anything but contemporary. The Vonnegut was of course Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel I was surprised to find had nothing to do with mass slayings by a deranged faceless killer. Instead there was a meandering plot and aliens described as looking like toilet plungers. I guffawed at the stupidity. For years, I'd tell people who hadn't read the book about the Tralfamadorians. But here's the thing about Slaughterhouse-Five: it stuck with me. I remember more about that novel than I do some novels I read three weeks ago. And so it goes.

Eventually I became a all-caps, italicized READER; I finally read that one work that convinced me the world of stories was a world I wanted to live in. And once I entered that world, the name of Vonnegut would pop up often: writer's workshops and Internet searches; book recommendations and some of my favorite hip-hop songs. Over and over, I found like-minded people loved Vonnegut, so I thought maybe I should too.

It has now been more than twenty years since I was first introduced to Vonnegut. Despite my intentions to explore the author in the last decade, I have failed until now. Every time I picked up any Vonnegut novel, I would find myself distracted with something shinier or more promising. I finally decided I'd read The Sirens of Titan because I have a fascination with Saturn's moon and because Vonnegut himself liked the novel (when grading his works years later, Vonnegut offered an 'A' to his sophomore novel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Su... ). Even then, it was some years before I finally read the damn book. But here I am, finally, at my destination.

Malachi Constant is also a man without direction. In a novel which promises to send the rich astronaut to Titan, he first makes prolonged stops to Mars, Mercury, and back to Earth. Along the way he loses his memory, loses his hope, and loses himself. I feel I can relate in some ways with Malachi Constant.

As with all classic novels of spaceflight, The Sirens of Titan is a horribly dated book. Unfortunately, it is more out of touch with its misogynist and prejudiced treatment of its characters than with the technology involved. The main female character—now that I think about it, she may have been the only female character—is reduced to serve as chattel, nameless for for too long. It doesn't feel so out-of-place in a science-fiction novel published in the 1950s, but it does sixty years later.

Let's just sidestep that issue and look at the book as a whole, shall we? Vonnegut doesn't give justice to any of his characters really. They're all rather shrewd and built on stereotypes, but it matters little as they're devoid of dimensions. Though this is only my second Vonnegut, I'm already beginning to see that characters and language take a back seat to plot, but that even plot is secondary to ingenuity. Vonnegut was a clever author. Vonnegut strikes me as a more modern and less showy Mark Twain: of course Twain largely wrote about history and his own world; whereas Vonnegut wrote about future and worlds other than his own. Vonnegut weaved wit with seemingly little effort and I think this is was makes his stories so likable. Though there are clever remarks and situations throughout The Sirens of Titan, the author did not jump in after every passage to say, “Did you see what I did there?” He trusted the reader to figure it out, or perhaps he figured if the reader didn't catch his humor, it wasn't worth his effort to explain it.

I walk away from The Sirens of Titan with similar, but more mature feelings as I did with Slaughterhouse-Five twenty years ago. I really wasn't that impressed. As a reader whose first love is characters and their development, I found The Sirens of Titan to be greatly lacking. While reading the novel, I was conscious of the fact that I found the story to be ridiculous if not outright cheesy. Yet, I continued to read with great interest. And, once again, here I am weeks later, remembering details of Constant's journey that I would've struggled to recall from parallel journeys written by other authors. So, I'm still not sure what I think about Vonnegut. I sort of liked this adventure. I sort of wondered what the hype was about. But I would give him another try. It could easily be another twenty years, but what is time in the world of Vonnegut?

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text 2017-08-19 02:04
The Reading Quest
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan,Carolyn Nowak
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Nature Abhors a Vacuum (The Aielund Saga) - Stephen L. Nowland

I totally missed the official signup for this, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.

 

The Reading Quest

 

I found it on Habitica, actually (apparently I am weak and will do anything for XP, including actual adulting), and it seemed very neat. Currently I am three and a half books in, working on the Rogue path, and quite enjoying the fact that I am working off a vague plan for my reading. We will see how long that lasts, since I am weak and easily distracted by random books, but the quest for experience points may keep me on my chosen path.

 

I'm going to need to do some major cleaning around here, since I may have gotten distracted from Booklikes for a bit.

 

Has anyone else seen this? Anyone manage to sign up in a timely manner and thus be eligible for prizes? Anyone else just going to do it anyway?

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review 2017-07-06 22:12
Pacyfista na zawsze
Wampetery, foma i granfalony - Kurt Vonnegut

Ze słaby entuzjazmem podchodzę do większości zbiorów wystąpień, przemówień, felietonów. Ulubiony autor ma prawo pisać również rzeczy słabsze. To nie jest wystarczający powód, żeby rzucać się na taką pozycję książkową na sam widok jego nazwiska na okładce.

 

Z „Wampeterami” jest na szczęście inaczej. Autor sam dokonał wyboru i zdecydował przekazać czytelnikom dokładnie to, co uznał za wartościowe i ponadczasowe. To, z czym nadal się zgadza i utożsamia.

 

Nie zachwyca mnie ten typ literatury. Za to coraz bardziej przepadam za człowiekiem, który ją tworzy. Lubię jego błyskotliwy, gorzki humor. Ogłasza prawdy ważkie, istotne. Nie załamuje rąk nad brakiem reakcji i obojętnością słuchaczy. Woli zamienić wypowiedź w żart, pozornie ośmieszyć samego siebie. Ale to chyba mechanizm obronny ludzi inteligentnych, wrażliwych, samotnych. Po co więc nieustannie powtarza światu to samo? Bo nie chce i nie potrafi zrezygnować z mówienia prawdy. A w „trudnej sztuce rzucania grochem o ścianę”* – jest już mistrzem.

 

* Zwrot „trudna sztuka rzucania grochem o ścianę” zaczerpnąłem od Stefana Chwina z wywiadu, którego udzielił niedawno Tygodnikowi Powszechnemu

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text 2017-05-23 21:09
The Next Stack of Library Books
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire - Carol Dyhouse
Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye
New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Tracy Chevalier
Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie
Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut
The Palace - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

After a four day weekend, it's back to the salt mines today.  But these beauties are waiting for me to come home to them!

 

Have a good week, everyone.

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review 2017-05-07 23:08
Toni FGMAMTC's Reviews > Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

This book is a crazy, seeming to head in all different directions. It covers a lot of social issues and much is about free will. It kind of makes fun of everything and is pretty 'out there' a lot. The way it is highlights how ridiculous things are in real life.

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