Sara's Reviews > Bluebeard

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
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Jun 19, 13

Read from January 19 to 24, 2012

Admittedly my exposure to Vonnegut consists of an adolescent reading of Slaughterhouse-Five, which remains in my memory a hazy, odd book about a man who travels to another planet to copulate in a zoo, and also the source of the infamous "so it goes". So when this book cropped up as suggested reading for a college painting class I was taking, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Bluebeard follows Rabo Karabekian, an elderly, one-eyed Armenian veteran living in the U.S. He's writing something of a disjointed memoir which jumps easily through time. He reminisces, and he talks about the present. Eventually rejecting his roots in photorealistic commercial art, he fell in with abstract expressionists (some real; Pollock, Rothko, some fictional like Karabekian himself). Later, as a result of faulty painting supplies, he becomes something of a joke within the art world as his paintings fall apart, leaving behind blank canvases.

Peppered throughout the book are character's observations of war, human nature, the role of women and men in society, the relative and subjective value of art (both monetary and not), and the tragic ignorance of youth.

This novel is rather short considering the amount of material it covers, and the breadth of Karabekian's life that is detailed. It is a book about art but simultaneously not about it; it doesn't delve deeply into the artistic world, instead focusing on the characters and their lives. Karabekian is an endearing and funny narrator.

The book also contains a mystery: what lurks inside of the much-padlocked potato barn that Karabekian refuses to open? Here the parallel to the titular tale comes in.

Recommended, especially for artists or lovers of art.
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