Category: Kurt Vonnegut

Cats Cradle – post I

I didn’t really get the humour of Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse 5 partly because it wasn‘t that funny a thing the Dresden bombing.

But you get the humour here and it makes the alien excursions with Slaughterhouse much more understandable. It’s as if the wanderings into the bizarre are a very visible shorthand to remind the reader that not only is this fiction not fact but that reality can be strange anyway. He is challenging the reader to think.

Not only to think but embrace characters that are often unusual being either too tall, too short or too clever.

But underneath it all there is a real sense of the dangers of science. The atom bomb is the most visible example but the idea of Ice-9, a chemical that can freeze water regardless of the conditions and temperature, shows how dangerous science and the ideas of scientists can be in a cold war context.

More soon…

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book review – Jailbird


Having enjoyed the story of the time travelling war veteran alien abducted character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 it was with some trepidation this book was picked up. Not because Slaughterhouse was bad, far from it, but because you just didn’t know what was coming.

This book has a similar feel with the main character Walter Starbuck reviewing his life and the mistakes that led him to be a widower in prison without friends or future prospects. The difference is that the flashbacks are done without the help of alien intervention and unlike the lead in Slaughterhouse Starbuck does not know what will become of him from the moment he is escorted out of the prison gates by president Jimmy Carter’s cousin.

After that moment there is an interweaving of different stories about Starbuck’s youth, career in the Nixon administration, marriage and his status as a despised sneak who ruined the career of one of his friends by mentioning they had both been in the communist party when grilled by the authorities.

Throughout the narrative there are constant references to a multinational corporation RAMJAC that owns everything from Vogue to McDonalds. Vonnegut brings the connection to Starbuck via the mysterious owner of the corporation who turns out to be one of Starbuck’s first girlfriends who saves him from destitution by appointing him as a vice president of the corporation.

But the reason why this book sticks in the mind because of the clever way it approaches some of the big debates in US politics and society. Is capitalist greed right or is a more socialist alternative the answer? If you are influential enough will you ever be really punished by the state? Is Jesus the answer for those who have nothing?

Then there are other more personal questions that he raises. What makes you successful – is it by sucking up to the right people or actually doing a good job? What constitutes personal success and can you be happy with no possessions?

Starbuck is a mirror not only to those debates but also challenges them by being part of the guilty Nixon administration, serving time, but also looking in from a position almost on the outside. Just like Billy in Slaughterhouse Starbuck seems to have his own morale compass and drifts through life frustrating those around him who are seeking to make him conform.

At the end of the book Starbuck is heading back to prison but this time, because it is seen to be for reasons that benefited rather than injured his friends, he is given a send off. The biggest question of all is whether or not a corrupt country is able to punish anyone and if those trying to turn the tide and share the wealth will ever manage to make a difference. Those are weighty questions and the fact that Vonnegut gets them across without preaching is a testament to the ability of his style.

book review – Jailbird


Having enjoyed the story of the time travelling war veteran alien abducted character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 it was with some trepidation this book was picked up. Not because Slaughterhouse was bad, far from it, but because you just didn’t know what was coming.

This book has a similar feel with the main character Walter Starbuck reviewing his life and the mistakes that led him to be a widower in prison without friends or future prospects. The difference is that the flashbacks are done without the help of alien intervention and unlike the lead in Slaughterhouse Starbuck does not know what will become of him from the moment he is escorted out of the prison gates by president Jimmy Carter’s cousin.

After that moment there is an interweaving of different stories about Starbuck’s youth, career in the Nixon administration, marriage and his status as a despised sneak who ruined the career of one of his friends by mentioning they had both been in the communist party when grilled by the authorities.

Throughout the narrative there are constant references to a multinational corporation RAMJAC that owns everything from Vogue to McDonalds. Vonnegut brings the connection to Starbuck via the mysterious owner of the corporation who turns out to be one of Starbuck’s first girlfriends who saves him from destitution by appointing him as a vice president of the corporation.

But the reason why this book sticks in the mind because of the clever way it approaches some of the big debates in US politics and society. Is capitalist greed right or is a more socialist alternative the answer? If you are influential enough will you ever be really punished by the state? Is Jesus the answer for those who have nothing?

Then there are other more personal questions that he raises. What makes you successful – is it by sucking up to the right people or actually doing a good job? What constitutes personal success and can you be happy with no possessions?

Starbuck is a mirror not only to those debates but also challenges them by being part of the guilty Nixon administration, serving time, but also looking in from a position almost on the outside. Just like Billy in Slaughterhouse Starbuck seems to have his own morale compass and drifts through life frustrating those around him who are seeking to make him conform.

At the end of the book Starbuck is heading back to prison but this time, because it is seen to be for reasons that benefited rather than injured his friends, he is given a send off. The biggest question of all is whether or not a corrupt country is able to punish anyone and if those trying to turn the tide and share the wealth will ever manage to make a difference. Those are weighty questions and the fact that Vonnegut gets them across without preaching is a testament to the ability of his style.

book review – Jailbird

Having enjoyed the story of the time travelling war veteran alien abducted character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 it was with some trepidation this book was picked up. Not because Slaughterhouse was bad, far from it, but because you just didn’t know what was coming.

This book has a similar feel with the main character Walter Starbuck reviewing his life and the mistakes that led him to be a widower in prison without friends or future prospects. The difference is that the flashbacks are done without the help of alien intervention and unlike the lead in Slaughterhouse Starbuck does not know what will become of him from the moment he is escorted out of the prison gates by president Jimmy Carter’s cousin.

After that moment there is an interweaving of different stories about Starbuck’s youth, career in the Nixon administration, marriage and his status as a despised sneak who ruined the career of one of his friends by mentioning they had both been in the communist party when grilled by the authorities.

Throughout the narrative there are constant references to a multinational corporation RAMJAC that owns everything from Vogue to McDonalds. Vonnegut brings the connection to Starbuck via the mysterious owner of the corporation who turns out to be one of Starbuck’s first girlfriends who saves him from destitution by appointing him as a vice president of the corporation.

But the reason why this book sticks in the mind because of the clever way it approaches some of the big debates in US politics and society. Is capitalist greed right or is a more socialist alternative the answer? If you are influential enough will you ever be really punished by the state? Is Jesus the answer for those who have nothing?

Then there are other more personal questions that he raises. What makes you successful – is it by sucking up to the right people or actually doing a good job? What constitutes personal success and can you be happy with no possessions?

Starbuck is a mirror not only to those debates but also challenges them by being part of the guilty Nixon administration, serving time, but also looking in from a position almost on the outside. Just like Billy in Slaughterhouse Starbuck seems to have his own morale compass and drifts through life frustrating those around him who are seeking to make him conform.

At the end of the book Starbuck is heading back to prison but this time, because it is seen to be for reasons that benefited rather than injured his friends, he is given a send off. The biggest question of all is whether or not a corrupt country is able to punish anyone and if those trying to turn the tide and share the wealth will ever manage to make a difference. Those are weighty questions and the fact that Vonnegut gets them across without preaching is a testament to the ability of his style.

book review – Jailbird


Having enjoyed the story of the time travelling war veteran alien abducted character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 it was with some trepidation this book was picked up. Not because Slaughterhouse was bad, far from it, but because you just didn’t know what was coming.

This book has a similar feel with the main character Walter Starbuck reviewing his life and the mistakes that led him to be a widower in prison without friends or future prospects. The difference is that the flashbacks are done without the help of alien intervention and unlike the lead in Slaughterhouse Starbuck does not know what will become of him from the moment he is escorted out of the prison gates by president Jimmy Carter’s cousin.

After that moment there is an interweaving of different stories about Starbuck’s youth, career in the Nixon administration, marriage and his status as a despised sneak who ruined the career of one of his friends by mentioning they had both been in the communist party when grilled by the authorities.

Throughout the narrative there are constant references to a multinational corporation RAMJAC that owns everything from Vogue to McDonalds. Vonnegut brings the connection to Starbuck via the mysterious owner of the corporation who turns out to be one of Starbuck’s first girlfriends who saves him from destitution by appointing him as a vice president of the corporation.

But the reason why this book sticks in the mind because of the clever way it approaches some of the big debates in US politics and society. Is capitalist greed right or is a more socialist alternative the answer? If you are influential enough will you ever be really punished by the state? Is Jesus the answer for those who have nothing?

Then there are other more personal questions that he raises. What makes you successful – is it by sucking up to the right people or actually doing a good job? What constitutes personal success and can you be happy with no possessions?

Starbuck is a mirror not only to those debates but also challenges them by being part of the guilty Nixon administration, serving time, but also looking in from a position almost on the outside. Just like Billy in Slaughterhouse Starbuck seems to have his own morale compass and drifts through life frustrating those around him who are seeking to make him conform.

At the end of the book Starbuck is heading back to prison but this time, because it is seen to be for reasons that benefited rather than injured his friends, he is given a send off. The biggest question of all is whether or not a corrupt country is able to punish anyone and if those trying to turn the tide and share the wealth will ever manage to make a difference. Those are weighty questions and the fact that Vonnegut gets them across without preaching is a testament to the ability of his style.

Jailbird – post IV

The book comes to an end with Starbuck again heading back for prison but this time he is given a friendly send off from those who are grateful for what he has done.

You are left pondering what the message is and it seems to be that even if you try to do something honourable then it goes against you in a society that is so susceptible to corruption and fear of actually sharing its wealth with its own people.

The dream of the secret owner of RAMJAC to spread her wealth among all Americans collapses under administration and legal fees and the cold reality of globalisation.

Bullet points between pages 200 – 241

* Having worked out who Mary Kathleen actually is after his interview with the public head of the RAMJAC he decides to head back to see his old flame in the hidden rail repair sheds in the bowls of the railway station

* Mary has been hit by a taxi and is slowly bleeding to death in one of the unused toilets and she tells Walter what her vision had been of what she wanted to do with RAMJAC, eventually giving the company to the American people

* She tells him how her wealth had meant she could never be happy because she was always haunted with the thought of being captured and having her hands cut off because that is the only way of identifying her ownership of the company

* Walter claims her body and she is buried but by some twist the cemetery worker tells someone he know with the same name and he has the fingerprints checked to see if he is related and it comes out that Starbuck hid the death of the legendary Mrs Jack Graham owner of the RAMJAC corporation

* Things rapidly fall apart and as a result of keeping her death hidden Walter faces jail and says goodbye to everyone for the second time but this time his speech in front of Nixon that cost his best friend his freedom is applauded and this jokes are appreciated – there is life after political death

A review will follow soon…

Jailbird – post IV

The book comes to an end with Starbuck again heading back for prison but this time he is given a friendly send off from those who are grateful for what he has done.

You are left pondering what the message is and it seems to be that even if you try to do something honourable then it goes against you in a society that is so susceptible to corruption and fear of actually sharing its wealth with its own people.

The dream of the secret owner of RAMJAC to spread her wealth among all Americans collapses under administration and legal fees and the cold reality of globalisation.

Bullet points between pages 200 – 241

* Having worked out who Mary Kathleen actually is after his interview with the public head of the RAMJAC he decides to head back to see his old flame in the hidden rail repair sheds in the bowls of the railway station

* Mary has been hit by a taxi and is slowly bleeding to death in one of the unused toilets and she tells Walter what her vision had been of what she wanted to do with RAMJAC, eventually giving the company to the American people

* She tells him how her wealth had meant she could never be happy because she was always haunted with the thought of being captured and having her hands cut off because that is the only way of identifying her ownership of the company

* Walter claims her body and she is buried but by some twist the cemetery worker tells someone he know with the same name and he has the fingerprints checked to see if he is related and it comes out that Starbuck hid the death of the legendary Mrs Jack Graham owner of the RAMJAC corporation

* Things rapidly fall apart and as a result of keeping her death hidden Walter faces jail and says goodbye to everyone for the second time but this time his speech in front of Nixon that cost his best friend his freedom is applauded and this jokes are appreciated – there is life after political death

A review will follow soon…