Joaquin's Reviews > Bluebeard

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
Rate this book
Clear rating

M 50x66
's review
Jan 15, 2008

it was amazing
Read in January, 2007

Wow. This was a novel that's going to keep me thinking for a long, long time. It was everything jam packed into a small little book: clever, tragic, engrossing, laugh out loud funny, imaginative, unexpected, and even transformative, I think. There are so many layers to this book I'm sure I'll be thinking about it off and on for the next several months at least and will almost definitely re-read this book a number of times before I reach room temperature.

Check it out: The protagonist/autobiographer is a veteran who lost an eye in WWII who later becomes one of the biggest jokes of the Abstract Expressionist art movement because all of his art disintegrates due to a poor choice of paint. He started life as an illustrator who couldn't make it as a 'real' artist because his paintings lacked depth and vision. And then he goes off to WWII and LITERALLY LOSES HIS SENSE OF DEPTH by having one of his eyes shot out. Ironically, I think it's this literal and figurative lack of depth perception that enables him to survive and not commit suicide while all of his other artist friends don't. There is more to this thing about eyes and perception, too. When both his father and some other artists are at their most creative, their eyes become dead. Half of this guy's eyes are already dead, so he's not able to see what they're seeing, so he can't be harmed/driven to suicide by it. It's only at the very end of the book, perhaps when he's finally old/strong/mature/stable enough to cope with everything he's seen is he really able to paint something that combines the objective reality of illustration and the visceral experience of abstract expressionism. This shit was some mind-freeing stuff for me. Reading it right now for some reason.

And then there's the whole thing about forbidden rooms and curiosity...the name of the book itself, and whatever it is that the guy has locked away in the potato barn. Both the original Bluebeard story and Vonnegut's have curious, prying women, too.

But the thing that's occupying my mind about the book right now is endings. In one part of the book, a female character talks about how Ibsen's The Doll House ended the wrong way. The Doll House's female lead leaves the house and everyone's left to assume she goes to Happily Ever After. But the woman in Bluebeard believes she throws herself in front of a train. Mostly because there really was no Happily Ever After for women at that time. Only more doll houses. I read that and I'm, like, "Yeah, life is harsh and it's crappy to have books end happily. Good books gotta end sad." So then this book goes and ends on a positive note. At first I was pretty bummed that everything works out in the end. But then I thought, "It's only ME who tacks on the 'Happily Ever After' part. Even though he has started the process of healing, this guy has a whole long row to hoe that is not going to be happy, pretty or any other easy positive word." In the same way that Vonnegut's character has finally found a way to combine literal but soulless illustration with abstract expressionism, maybe I'm getting closer to being able to see 'happily ever after,' and 'life is still super hard' as two sides of the same simultaneously experienced reality.

I have been going on like this in my head since I finished this book 24 hours ago and things just seem to be speeding up, as far as I can tell. The sign of a great book, in my book.
20 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Bluebeard.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

09/11 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Wow indeed. Clearly, I've got to check this out. I tried Slaughterhouse 5, but I'm kind of embarrased to admit that I didn't get very far because I found the short chapters difficult to get into. But this sounds deeply involving.


Peter The ending may be happy, but if you check the date at the beginning you'll see that Rabo died the next year!

Scartowner Thank you for your review. I'm reading it now and totally missed the significance of vision and depth. Wonderful review, thank you!

Cecily Scartowner wrote: "Thank you for your review. I'm reading it now and totally missed the significance of vision and depth. Wonderful review, thank you!"


message 5: by Briana (new) - added it

Briana Morales I'm reading it! Thank you for this convincing review

message 6: by Briana (new) - added it

Briana Morales I'm going to read it! thank you for this convincing review!

back to top