As for the story itself, it was entitled "The Dancing Fool." Like so many Trout stories, it was about a tragic failure t...moreWhy Kurt Vonnegut is a genius:
As for the story itself, it was entitled "The Dancing Fool." Like so many Trout stories, it was about a tragic failure to communicate.
Here was the plot: A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing.
Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golfclub.(less)
God, this book is so devastating. Vonnegut is so chameleonic, or something, how the lightness of his prose brilliantly belies the darkness of his them...moreGod, this book is so devastating. Vonnegut is so chameleonic, or something, how the lightness of his prose brilliantly belies the darkness of his themes, but oh my god, I can't even think how to express how sad this one made me. Everything is so sharply focused, every word is so perfectly, harrowingly placed. The loops and recursions and double-agents and plots within plots: all perfect. All awful. All honed for maximum pathos and horror without becoming maudlin or overdramatic. I feel punched in the gut. Gah.
(Here is the summary I wrote for myself the last time I read this, two years ago, not for work. I'm leaving it because I cycle through Vonnegut books every few years, and I often forget which was which, and this will help me. Feel free to ignore it; it's slightly spoilery.) It's about a former Nazi radio propagandist, who now sits in jail awaiting trial for war crimes. Campbell claims he was a double agent, using his broadcasts to send coded messages to the Americans, but no one in the United States will come forward to confirm that he was working for them. The whole thing is told in flashback, about Campbell's life as a celebrated Berlin playwright before the war, his importance during it, his flight to New York as it was ending, and several years of living in total anonymity in the U.S., until he is finally discovered by – yup – a crazed White Supremacist. His nextdoor neighbor in New York is a Russian, a chessmaster, and maybe a spy? There's of course a love story, and plenty of hijinx, and on and on. (less)
This is another book that makes me want to go back through and knock down all my five-star ratings, so it can be in a class all its own. Honestly and...moreThis is another book that makes me want to go back through and knock down all my five-star ratings, so it can be in a class all its own. Honestly and truly one of the most astonishingly beautiful things I've ever read.
Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is a memoir of sorts. Cortázar (the most devastatingly brilliant author of modern times, if you didn't know) and his wife Carol decide to spend thirty-odd days living on the highway connecting Paris to Marseille (for a local reference, it seems rather like the New Jersey Turnpike), in their red Volkswagen van named Fafner, going to two rest areas each day. They set up camp (as it were) at each one, finding the best picnic table at which to write, eat, talk, and lounge in the sun, taking time to explore the wilds of each locale. It's written as a travelog, with a list of how many shops, bathrooms, trees, waste bins, etc., etc., etc. can be found in each, and they include things like the temperature, which direction Fafner faces, and what they eat each day.
If this sounds a little childish and silly, that's exactly the point. Cortázar is a literary icon, an undeniable genius, but here we see him only as a man, a boyish man at that, impish and gleeful and silly, and his wonderful wife the same. It is just these two people, relishing the strangeness of the world in which they've decided to live, and the sheer joy of one another's company. It is absolutely stunning to witness the immense sense of wonder that they bring to even the most mundane endeavors, how much joy and love suffuses each of their days. This book encompases so much more than insipid handles like memoir or essay; it is a love story to each other, to friends, to every day, to the amazement that is the world. I realize I may have hazed into corniness here, but this book is like nothing else. It's like spending a month in a van with two of the most fascinating, happy, brilliant people you'll never be lucky enough to meet.
If I could, I would send a copy of this book to everyone I have ever loved, and everyone who needs to be reminded of how thrilling the world can be.
Amazing and heartbreaking. This book details all of the insane and horrific monstrosities being perpetrated internationally upon women, from child pro...moreAmazing and heartbreaking. This book details all of the insane and horrific monstrosities being perpetrated internationally upon women, from child prostitution to genital mutilation to poverty and starvation. The most amazing thing, though, is that the book is peppered throughout with profiles of these incredible women's groups that are coming together, in the worst conditions in the worst countries, to try to make their lives, and the lives of others, better. It's devastating and intensely hopeful.(less)
I really should have written a review for this... it's a fantastic book. Really really sad, though. Not make-you-cry sad, but the kind of sad where yo...moreI really should have written a review for this... it's a fantastic book. Really really sad, though. Not make-you-cry sad, but the kind of sad where you hit a certain point and you know that shit is just going to get worse and worse and worse, in an inexorable pull, with absolutely no chance of any kind of happy ending. But still, great, great book. (less)
This book is really intense and fascinating. All about the ancient hermeticists and occultists and kabbalists that came up with all the ideas in that...moreThis book is really intense and fascinating. All about the ancient hermeticists and occultists and kabbalists that came up with all the ideas in that stupid book The Secret that everyone recently lost their minds over.(less)
Super-cool, actually. Interviews with obscure, semi-obscure, and kinda-well-known female musicians. Included are (excuse my terrible name-recall) the...moreSuper-cool, actually. Interviews with obscure, semi-obscure, and kinda-well-known female musicians. Included are (excuse my terrible name-recall) the chick from White Zombie, the girl from the Butthole Surfers, the lady from Southern Culture on the Skids, a whole bunch of performance artists from NY and Cali, Nina Hagen (whoa, she is crazy), and a whole bunch more that I am mad I forgot. (less)
Lo-o-o-o-o-oved this book. It helped that I worked in Hoboken for three years, at a bar/venue called Maxwell's which features prominently in this nove...moreLo-o-o-o-o-oved this book. It helped that I worked in Hoboken for three years, at a bar/venue called Maxwell's which features prominently in this novel.
Also I met the author at a publishing party and he was incredibly gracious and nice. How many authors give the copyeditor a hug?? Not many.(less)
Oh stunning, my goodness, what a wonderful, devastating book. I was bewildered and despondent for an entire evening after I finished reading this for...moreOh stunning, my goodness, what a wonderful, devastating book. I was bewildered and despondent for an entire evening after I finished reading this for the second time in a row (just one of the benefits of being a copyeditor). Much like Arkansas, the last book I read for McSweeney's, at a certain point (this one is clearly marked, by an earthquake), you have a sharp intake of breath because you realize that things are just going to get worse and worse and there's nothing you can do to slow it down or wish it better.
But oh, it's a fantastic journey to get there. And also, this book has something of a restorative quality, for me, on a meta sort of level; it reaffirms my faith in uniqueness. (I know that's kind of a played-out word, but fuck you, it's also totally accurate, so what else should I say?) I mean, Deb not only has an utterly original way with words, which is weird and funny and sad and disassociating and closening too, but the book is extremely twisty, plotwise. You keep thinking you know what story you're reading, and then you are just completely wrong, over and over.
Shivery-good. Honest. Get a copy as soon as it comes out.
PS: Unusually, when I finished the copyedit I had to hand off the pages to Deb herself, and she was SO NICE to me. I love that.(less)