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Hocus Pocus

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  25,263 Ratings  ·  839 Reviews
From the author of Timequake, this "irresistible" novel (Cleveland Plain Dealer) tells the story of Eugene Debs Hartke-Vietnam veteran, jazz pianist, college professor, and prognosticator of the apocalypse. It's "Vonnegut's best novel in years-funny and prophetic...something special." (The Nation)
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Berkley (first published 1990)
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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Vonnegut's Best
38 books — 552 voters
1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cult Classics
615 books — 855 voters

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Community Reviews

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Dec 02, 2009 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are a couple of authors who aimlessly write, sometimes attaching all this drivel to one profound, emblematic theme. None of that with Vonnegut, who writes about the Vietnam War like no one else: with the courage to mix in futuristic and antiquarian events, all fictional but lifelike, as well as merging composite psyches with individual personal histories. He has a beating heart, and it beats louder and faster, with a warlike violence and even more often with a human tenderness, as Vonnegut ...more
Erik Ryman
Aug 03, 2008 Erik Ryman rated it it was amazing
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
May 26, 2017 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biting satire with sharp teeth.

An often hilarious and all too often sadly accurate commentary on our culture and humanity as whole, all wrapped up in a story about a Vietnam Veteran turned instructor that witnesses a mass prison break and eventually becomes a prisoner himself. On pure plot - we are being told the story by the main character, Eugene Debs Hartke, named for a Socialist Atheist, raised by a pair of nit-wits, and then made to go to West Point by the paternal nit-wit. Eugene Hartke
Sep 27, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing

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
Dec 07, 2012 seak rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, 2013
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.
Jul 10, 2008 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
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
Mar 28, 2011 Danger rated it it was amazing
2ND TIME READING: Vonnegut is just amazing. What we have here is an inciting incident, an incident around which everything else in this book pivots, and instead of focusing on that, we examine the two dozen satellites that are trapped in it’s orbit. In doing that, this book explores and satirizes and subverts so many disparate yet somehow related things (the prison system, higher education, neo-McCarthyism, family, Vietnam, etc) that it’s hard to know which direction is up. But Vonnegut tells st ...more
Aug 29, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it
Încă mă uimește capacitatea lui Kurt Vonnegut de a aborda un subiect oarecum banal și a-l transforma într-o capodopera… Dacă Abatorul Cinci demonta cu abilitate și ironie mitul războiului onorabil, Hocus Pocus e incredibil de vastă din punct de vedere al temelor abordate – discriminare, rasism, război, schimbări climatice, întregul sistem politic și educațional american este pus sub lupă; mă străduiesc și acum să înțeleg cum o carte atât de mică poate acoperi o întreagă realitate… Îmbinând ...more
Apr 29, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 22, 2008 Quinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 18, 2017 britt_brooke rated it really liked it
Shelves: vonnegut
"How embarrassing to be human."

Dark social satire set in martial-law America where prisons are "color-coded" and the Japanese own nearly everything. Basic takeaway: humans are still stupid and ruining the planet. History repeats itself. Bleak, but funny. Plus, there's a brief Kilgore Trout appearance.
Jan 24, 2008 Russell rated it did not like it
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
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.

Mar 20, 2008 Holli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-writers
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
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
Jul 04, 2012 Luis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terminé el libro con un suspiro enorme, cerré la última página y mi ojo derecho lucía así:

* * *
¿Por donde empezar?
¡Pues por Kurt Vonnegut!
Este es el noveno o décimo libro que leo de él, ya me van quedando pocas balas.
Eso me apena mucho.
"Hocus Pocus" está entre sus novelas menos conocidas, y sin embargo en mi opinión personal está a la altura de sus obras cumbres. (Véase Matadero 5, Cuna de gato o Las sirenas del Titán)
En sí misma, la premisa principal de la historia le sirve como exc
Maggie K
Sep 08, 2014 Maggie K rated it really liked it 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!
Erik Graff
Oct 21, 2009 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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.
M.L. Rio
I haven't read a book I loved this much in a long time. In Hocus Pocus Vonnegut is at is his best, walking the line between absurdism, satire, and tragedy with unsurpassed finesse. It's not a story for everyone, because nothing in this story is sacred. (Even the Kennedy assassination isn't off-limits.) The humor is grim, the characters often unpalatable, the outlook bleak. What makes it so compulsively readable is Vonnegut's skill and insight as raconteur. The non-linear narrative seems at first ...more
Alyssa Nelson
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
Gustavo Muñoz (Akito)
Dec 09, 2014 Gustavo Muñoz (Akito) rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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,
Mar 25, 2011 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Mar 08, 2014 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jim Dooley
There is such an incredible rage in this book ... rage coated with bitter sarcasm. Now, you may be thinking, "Of course, it's by Kurt Vonnegut."

But, the writer of this book isn't the one who wrote SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. Yes, it was physically the same person, but this Vonnegut doesn't pretend that there may be some grand joke permeating the Universe. This Vonnegut is peddling fatalistic horrors under the theme that the "great human experiment" isn't working at all ... and those who attempt to addr
Nov 19, 2011 Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Nate D
Sep 15, 2009 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  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
Susan Emmet
Mar 29, 2011 Susan Emmet rated it it was amazing
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
Oto Bakradze
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 16, 2017 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was written in such a bizarre fashion that it took me awhile to get into it. The longer I read the more I realized Vonnegut was able to pack quicker and harder punches.

There was a lot here and I laughed like hell.

Also finding out Andrew Jackson Jihad got their album title for "People Who Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World" from this book was super cool.
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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
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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.” 369 likes
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” 290 likes
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