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Hocus Pocus

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  21,923 ratings  ·  662 reviews
Eugene Debs Hartke, ex-Vietnam vet, ex-college professor, current inmate of Tarkington State Reformatory, awaits his trial and probable death from TB. How did he get there? Via numerous absurd twists of fate which he now narrates on scraps of paper found about the place. Killer of men, romancer of women, compulsive list-maker, Eugene is just one more victim of the world's ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 17th 1991 by Vintage Classics (first published 1990)
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Erik Ryman
Sep 08, 2008 Erik Ryman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of satire
Hocus Pocus is the story of Eugene Debs Hartke, a Vietnam veteran, who after leaving the Army became a teacher at a private school and then a prison. After a prison break, he is mistaken for one of the ring leaders and ends up awaiting trial, dying of TB, contemplating his life and trying to count the number of women he has slept with.

In itself, that would make a good basis for an ordinary book, but as this is a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, the basic story has little to do with making this on
...more
Rebecca
THE COMPLICATED FUTILITY OF IGNORANCE

I had to laugh like hell...

Reading Hocus Pocus hard on the heels of Brave New World, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and various other social/political material certainly gave a new depth to this amazing novel. I've owned it for quite a few years but had never quite gotten around to reading it: I suppose there is a time and a place for everything, because I would not have resonated with this novel as strongly at any other time.

Life seems to be, in Vonnegut's vie
...more
seak
I love Vonnegut, but this one felt a little forced and was largely forgettable. Forced in the way that it felt like another one of his phrases (like "so it goes") was being churned out and forgettable because I can't even remember that phrase.

Still, not terrible, just one of his weaker novels.
Quinn
My favorite of Vonnegut's lesser known works. Has the same wit exemplified in Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. I think a big part of why I like this one so much is the numerology games he plays throughout. (I do love me some numbers). The choppy style takes a little bit to get used to (the self aware first person voice supposedly only had scraps of paper of divergent sizes to write on) but it pays off once you get used to it. Vonnegut has always been a master at seamlessly amalgamating f ...more
Peter
I can't say that this is one of Kurt Vonnegut's best works. To be honest, it's rather more depressing than many of his other novels - and they're a rather depressing lot anyway! Unlike his Bluebeard, though, this book lacks a deeply moving and somehow uplifting ending. It lacks a sense of resolution...perhaps that's what Vonnegut intended. It probably is.

But even so, Vonnegut retained his gifts as a writer. So although I found myself frequently feeling a little depressed by this book, I also cou
...more
Diane
This is not, not, not a book to be read if you haven't read Kurt Vonnegut in your life. It is also something that needs to be handled with a certain care and consideration for satire and the hilarity that can come with it. Kurt Vonnegut is a master of cynicism and being able to open one's eyes to the often times ridiculous world around us.

This story is an intricate weaving of sections that are as variable in length as they are in subject matter. And yet, with the expertise of a skilled writer, V
...more
արմին վիշապաքաղ
վոնեգուտից «կապտամորուսն» էի կարդացել միայն ու ահա «Հոկուս պոկուսը» ավարտեցի։ ի՜նչ ցնցող գործ է։ կապտամորուսը շատ չէր տպավորել, ինձ համար սենց՝ հա, լավն էր պարզապես, ոչ մի բանով չէր կպել (միգուցե ինչ֊որ չափով թարգմանությունից էլ էր․ հայերեն էի կարդացել)։ իսկ հոկուս պոկուսը հուզական, սատիրիկ, քննադատական, թախծոտ, պատերազմական, ֆատալ, ռետրոսպեկտիվ, անհույս․․․ ու ֆաբուլան, որ մի ժամանակաշրջանից, մի տեղից մյուսն է թռնում, ու տանո՜ւմ է։ ու խնդիրները, որ բարձրացնում է՝ պատերազմ, ռասիզմ, աղքատություն, ...more
Paul (formerly known as Current)
Kurt Vonnegut creates, with his own unique perspective and style, a novel of entropy and fragments that is quite enjoyable to read--here, in the wandering time line of memory are causes and effects of history and accident specific to one man's life and yet which tie together and comment on our history and society.

In some senses, the story takes a form of a mystery: we are presented with a character who is in "prison" and we are learning how he got there and what he has done to be imprisoned.

At
...more
Maggie K
Vonnegut....no one can capture the ironic humor that comes from an otherwise tragic situation quite like Vonnegut.

In this book, our protagonist is on his deathbed, and reviewing his life, which was really just a series of unfortunate events...and in the words of one character.."I had to laugh like hell"

By the end of the book, the concept of having to laugh at the irony that is life just shone through like a beacon. this is something I can definitely appreciate!
Gustavo Muñoz (Akito)
I loved this book, so much, and after finishing it I had to laugh like hell because I couldn't think of a single concrete thing to say about it in here.

The word 'sonder' (the realization that each passerby, in this tiny world of ours, has a life as vivid and complex as your own) comes to mind. Even if it's a concept that's very present on all of Vonnegut's work, its main character makes it resonates especially well with this one.

Eugene Debs Hartke's life -Vietnam veteran, teacher, prison warden,
...more
Holli
There's something utterly terrible in finishing a book that made you feel like your whole being (as never before) was acknowledged as beautiful while you read it. Tears...a lot of tears. A ache in your heart...a yearning for the love affair that you've just had with this author (reaching for him in your quiet times and not being rejected but Validated) is over. Done. Kaput. But to know that you are for now and for ever in love with him. That a simple little word strategically placed within its p ...more
Russell
Jan 26, 2008 Russell rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: really, really, really completionist Vonnegut fans
I love Kurt Vonnegut. It would be difficult to overstate how formative Cat's Cradle was for me. I got a major kick out of Slaughterhouse Five.

But this book was missing everything that made those great. There's no winking wisdom behind the satircal bitterness. No blindingly fresh observations from the mouths of fools and idiots. There's no fun.

If you took all the wit and imagination and irony and subtlety out of Slaughterhouse Five, you'd end up with this. I can see why someone would want to w
...more
Judi
My favorite Kurt Vonnegut read thus far. I can relate to Eugene Debbs totally. I love the way the story hops around. It echoes my mind. One of the few reads that has prompted me to laugh out loud. Kurt Vonnegut's voice bites and amuses. Brilliant. Thankfully I have more of his books to savor.
Erik Graff
Aug 11, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
Like Vonnegut, I share a deep admiration for Eugene Victor Debs. Like Vonnegut, I probably idolize the man. The contrast between Hartke, the protagonist, and Debs, his namesake, is significant and Hartke knows it.
Joseph
For Me this book started slow but definitely picked up to the Vonnegut I know and love. A stark view of war and society in a way only he could write it. Excellent read. And so it goes.
Alyssa Archambo
I will preface my review by saying that Kurt Vonnegut is not for everyone. Personally, I love the subject matter he writes about and his style. However, I know quite a few people that wouldn't be able to get through two chapters of this.

Hocus Pocus doesn't have much of a traditional plot; if anything, it's more of a character study of Hartke, the main character in the novel. Like the summary says, it's a fictional autobiography. For some readers, it may be slow going because of this, but there's
...more
Susan Emmet
Have always loved Vonnegut (maybe because I so agree/lean toward his "politics" and take on things of all sorts). Again bought this novel at John Merrill's Bookshop in Hallowell. Long taught Welcome To The Monkeyhouse and other V. works as an English teacher.
Amazing journey of Eugene Debs Hartke, born in Indiana, who attended West Point, served as a commander in Vietnam where he "disposed" of many people, all the while being called "The Preacher," who ends up teaching learning-disabled college s
...more
Morgan
The first Vonnegut book I read. Immediately hooked.

---

I can't possibly imagine what I thought about this when I first read it.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I do remember one thing I thought about it, but more on that later.

So let us examine the state in which I first read this book. Obviously, I didn't pay much attention to the statement on page 54, "I am not writing this book for people below the age of 18, but I see no harm in telling young people to prepare for failure rather than success,
...more
B-MO
***Vonnegut predicted Budweiser sell off in 1991...

This book is a cynical version of "slaughterhouse 5" mixed with "thank you mr. Rosewater"; complete with an unstuck in time type narrative. Despite a level of cynicism being present in all Vonnegut's works, there is also quite a bit of hope for the future scattered in most of them. I didn't feel that way here. "And so it goes" was replaced by "And I had to laugh like hell"...yet only in a 'I might as well laugh like hell, because ain't nothing I
...more
Blacke
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bandit
This incredibly witty funny clever book is a satire about a man scarred by Vietnam war, the decline of american culture and values, the manic consumerism, selling out, higher education and racial politics and other incredibly serious topics. Written back in 1990, it is a bit dated, but at the same time unsettling vision of the future. I would definitely recommend this one.
Sophie Barker
Este es el tercer libro que leo de Vonnegut, y que queréis que os diga, pues que soy una fangirl suya y doy gracias al universo por que exista. Vonnegut es un hombre blanco estadounidense que no está orgulloso de ser ninguna de esas tres cosas. Las personas que han participado como soldados en una guerra lejos de casa, no suelen hablar de los horrores que han visto y cometido cuando vuelven. Cuando lees a Vonnegut, tienes la sensación permanente de que desfoga su angustia y su tristeza por boca ...more
Emma
Maybe I'm growing out of Vonnegut, now that I'm an old fart with my Pall Malls and my TV. This felt a bit didactic. Or is it that I'm sick? Ladies and gentlemen, read Vonnegut when you are feeling well. Nonetheless, he's ever-readable and I can't say he's wrong.
EDIT:
Goodreads is giving me this quote from Vonnegut, about how to write: "Make a character want something-that's how you begin." But I think that is missing here. This character is a black hole. That's why the book feels hollow to me. I
...more
Matthew
I guess my main problem with Vonnegut is that I don't find him funny. His book jackets always have quotes shouting "HILARIOUS", "REALLY FUNNY", "ABSURD HUMOR", but he doesn't make me laugh or even smile. What I usually find funny are things I don't expect. Vonnegut's goofy, irreverent codger tone is too predictable.

And then he always tells you exactly what to think about his characters and the events in his books. No room for interpretation. He doesn't let your imagination do anything with the c
...more
Joe Mcveigh
Kurt Vonnegut Twofer - Hocus Pocus and Look at the Birdie

I'm going to assume that you, dear reader, have not read any Vonnegut. Because if you have, all I need to say about these two books is that if you enjoyed the other Vonnegut works you read, you'll enjoy these too.

Maybe that's not quite right. Maybe you need to have enjoyed a certain aspect of Vonnegut's writing style.

Sometimes Vonnegut will start the story by telling how it ends. Sometimes he will tell the reader exactly which character
...more
Jace
I'm sure that some windy literary critic could write an entire dissertation comparing Slaughterhouse Five's portrayal of World War II and HOCUS POCUS's portrayal of the Vietnam conflict. But I'm not that person. Whereas aliens and time travel bathed Slaughterhouse in the light of sci-fi surrealism, the depictions of war in HOCUS POCUS are much more raw and adult.

This book is even more depressing to read after 8 baleful years of the Bush administration. When Vonnegut described what a shitcan our
...more
Nate D
Sep 15, 2009 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: Maya
I've never been the hugest Vonnegut fan despite being well aware that given what he was trying to do and who he influenced, he should be up there with my favorites. Or should have been when I was a teenager. Or something. I'm not sure what my reservations were exactly, as I hadn't read anything by him for a while, and I really figured I should come back and reboot. Thanks to my roommate's well worm copy of Hocus Pocus I had the chance.

And okay, now I'm totally sold.

Initial reservations having to
...more
Brent
All the usual Vonnegut themes. Depression, alienation, random acts, the brutality of life, the meaningless violence of humanity, resignation, and the belief that humanity is nowhere as smart as it thinks it it, and that the Earth (and universe) would be better off if we became extinct. Wrap this all up in Kurt's signature blend of self-depreciating humor. Should be another winner, but. . .

I just couldn't get into this one as so many of his other books. I love Vonnegut and have been reading him
...more
M. D.  Hudson
Of my recent Vonnegut rereads this was one of my favorites. The way the past sort of clutters up the present, both with people and institutions is the best part of it. The protagonist's agonizing past as a soldier, the goofy history of the bells. The futility of breaking out of prison only to find another prison of sorts. The politics is a little amusing, with the Japanese running everything to the point where yen circulate with dollars...this was standard outlook around the time I graduated fro ...more
Kathleen
As others have noted, this is not a typical Vonnegut read. If you are new to his work, I recommend started with an earlier book.
Maybe it's just my own state of mind, but this book just made me sad. And the satire bit back a little harder than I'm accostomed to.
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2778055
Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali
...more
More about Kurt Vonnegut...
Slaughterhouse-Five Cat's Cradle Breakfast of Champions The Sirens of Titan Mother Night

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“Just because you can read, write and do a little math, doesn't mean that you're entitled to conquer the universe.” 323 likes
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” 213 likes
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