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4.04  ·  Rating details ·  35,681 ratings  ·  1,463 reviews
Broad humor and bitter irony collide in this fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, who, at age seventy-one, wants to be left alone on his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn. But then a voluptuous young widow badgers Rabo into telling his life story—and Vonnegut in turn tells us the plain, heart-hammering truth about man’s careless ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published 2011 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published October 1987)
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Alex Yeahhh... maybe. I wouldn't be surprised if Wes Anderson has cited Vonnegut as an inspiration somewhere. They have a similar sense of humor. They use …moreYeahhh... maybe. I wouldn't be surprised if Wes Anderson has cited Vonnegut as an inspiration somewhere. They have a similar sense of humor. They use understatement, brevity, absurdity, and create really interesting tragic characters. Their casts are similarly honest, depressed, humbled to the point of self-deprecation, and wonderfully odd. But here's where I see their main differences, and I'm looking at their overall bodies of work for this; and, though I'm not worthy, forgive my audacity, I'm going to refer to them on a first name basis. They probably wouldn't mind. Here it is: Kurt and Wes are both masters of their art, both perfected their styles, both brilliant and visionary. But I think Kurt's work has a depth Wes' does not. K's a veteran, as are most of his characters, and through their experience in war they offer a greater sardonic message, a deeper social comment; he has a darker perspective, longer shadows in a more dimensional work. So, to your point about uniforms: true, but for Kurt, it's not about costuming, it's about the humans within and how absurd it is that their clothes should make them different- as seen in "Now it's the Women's Turn." Wes, in his own right, has made his camera and sets an amazing narrator on its own, making the visual storytelling the core of his work. Kurt does something greater in his narratives by surpassing time and space through the narrator's dynamic place in their own timeline. I loved how in Bluebeard he snapped back and forth with the "back to the past:" and "back to the present:" lines. And my last note: Wes' work is most often described as "whimsical." It is. It's kind of cute. It marks his style. But Kurt! Oh, my hero, Kurt. He is never cute. If it seems he is, it's sarcastic. He's so good at his dark, black humor, so penetrating; it's like he's laughing at a knife in his leg, pulls it out of his "meat" and laughs harder about how terrible and ridiculous it is, and gives you the knife saying "try it. It hurts like hell, but it doesn't matter, nothing matters, everything matters, feel something!" He's writing and laughing from a deep moral center that's so appalled at the world for being what it is, from a human, empathetic place that's forgiving of humans but not forgiving of humanity. That's his core. He's not making light of, he's making dark of how f'd up we are; we see it in Breakfast of Champs with the "chemicals" and it's in Bluebeard with "I'd hate to be responsible for what my meat does." We are our single band of unwavering light. We cannot help being meat. So, anyway, I love both of these artists, and I totally see what you're saying, but Kurt has many more layers that make these two as comparable as mild salsa and gourmet seven-layer dip. (less)
Jerry Travis As with all of his works, they stand independent of each other, although there might be an occasional cameo, as it were, from characters living in oth…moreAs with all of his works, they stand independent of each other, although there might be an occasional cameo, as it were, from characters living in other works. Bluebeard is my favorite Vonnegut for one reason. There is a place where he uses a one-word sentence containing two letters, which says more than most writers can manage in a full chapter.(less)

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Average rating 4.04  · 
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Mar 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who don't hate good books
One thing I've discovered is that people tend to have different favorites of Vonnegut's work. Many prefer Slaughter House Five, some love Breakfast of Champions, and my sister's favorite is Galapagos.

The only person I've ever met whose favorite Vonnegut book is Bluebeard is... me. So it goes.

The book follows former abstract expressionist painter Rabo Karabekian, serving as his autobiography and a mystery story simultaneously. The mystery? What is Rabo keeping in the huge potato barn on his larg
J.L.   Sutton
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Image result for vonnegut meme bluebeard

“Everything about life is a joke. Don't you know that?”

From beginning to end, Bluebeard has Kurt Vonnegut written all over it. His irreverent tone, summed up in the quote above, along with his concomitant exploration of what it means to be human, brings together familiar themes in Vonnegut’s work. Bluebeard is the mock autobiography of abstract expressionist painter, Rabo Karabekian, a character who first appeared in Breakfast of Champions. This is a book about what art is and what it can do in
This is Vonnegut, so it’s quirky, knowing, silly, intelligent, funny, mysterious (what IS in the potato barn?) and anti-war – amongst many other things. It's conversational, and broken into very short chunks, but don't be deceived into thinking it's lightweight.

It claims to be the autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, an Armenian-American WW2 veteran who became a major figure in Abstract Expressionism, after an apprenticeship with realist illustrator, Dan Gregory. It reads more as a memoir, intersp
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
“What a fool I would have been to let self-respect interfere with my happiness!”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard


A pseudo memoir of Rabo Karabekian a minor Abstract Expressionist whose art literally disappeared (thanks to a poor choice in paints). It is hard to relay what the book essentially is, but obviously it is an autobiography of an almost loner, a hermit with a roommate. He lives in his big house in the Hamptons among the art he bought cheap (Rothkos, Pollocks, etc) years ago. He is being bull
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
This is maybe the fourth or fifth Vonnegut book I've read, having only been introduced to him recently, sadly. I'm becoming quite a fan of his writing. What I like about him is that a lot of deep truths mask the ironic and humorous statements he makes. Definitely a must-read for those who like satire. ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Come Dancing

By the time I reached the last chapter of this novel, I realised that Kurt Vonnegut had taken me dancing, just as Rabo Karabekian had finally taken Mrs Circe Berman dancing.


71 year old Rabo sets off to write his autobiography, but soon discovers that it has equally become a diary of the summer of its writing in his elegant mansion on Long Island (inherited from his recently deceased second wife, Edith).

Rabo started his working life as a cartoonist and illustrator, devot
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rabo Karabekian was the artist in the art exhibit in Midland City, Ohio that caused so many people to dislike art in Vonnegut’s 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions.

An abstract expressionist, he had sold to the art festival a huge painting that was a green canvas with a piece of orange tape vertically affixed to it. For this he had been paid thousands of dollars. The local economy was struggling at the time and many non-artists resented him and his high falooting ways. (He was something of a snooty
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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/autobiograph
Matthew Quann
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Matthew by: Josh Bragg
This was a lovely reintroduction to Vonnegut after a nearly eight year hiatus. I remember loving his style and staccato rhythm of his prose. Slaughterhouse-Five remains one of my favourite novels and was one of the first that made me think science fiction could be much more than explosions and cool scenes. Bluebeard, by contrast, is an entirely realist novel about the abstract expressionist art movement.

Although it's only a little bit about that too.

What it's really about is Rabo Karabekian, ag
Brett C
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kurt-vonnegut
I have read several Kurt Vonnegut books and this one is excellent. I enjoyed this one because the tone felt different in comparison his other works. This book was not necessarily positive or upbeat, but was optimistic. Feelings of sentiment, reflection, and loneliness were rich in the story.

The story told by main character, Rabo Karabekian, who is an artist writing his autobiography. I felt Rabo was cleansing and purging his past emotional pains and experiences through art: in both painting and
Kevin Shepherd
Vonnegut's 1987 indictment of the fickle subjectivism surrounding the art and artists of the post-war era. Vonnegut candles the egg, if you will, of expressionism and throws a little light on the lunacy that often surrounds 'modern art.'

This novel, like every Vonnegut novel I've ever read, is tragic - but it has that patented KV infusion of humor and that familiar air of decency and humanity that makes it oh so enjoyable to read.
Kara Babcock
May 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read Vonnegut now. Vonnegut is cool.

I have vague memories of reading Vonnegut before—I have some very old, very pulp editions of some of his other novels that I … er … “liberated” from my father. I swear I’ve read Breakfast of Champions before, and I’m pretty sure I read either Cat’s Cradle or Player Piano at my sister’s wedding. I remember this because I was only 15, but the server still offered me wine (I declined). Suffice it to say, although Vonnegut is associated with some interesting mem
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kurt Vonnegut wrote so many books that sometimes a real gem gets lost in the shuffle. "Bluebeard" is just such a novel. I don't know many people who have read it, and that is simply a shame! It is a unique text (it varies greatly from the so called "Vonnegut style") and is a pretty conventional narrative that deals with many of the standard Vonnegut themes in a more easily accessible manner.
The novel is the autobiography of an artist who has become a footnote in the history of Abstract Expressio
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this to read as a little birthday treat to myself and, true to form, Vonnegut didn't let me down.

Once apprentice to 'great man' and famous illustrator Dan Gregory before becoming one of the founders of an important abstract art movement, even if he was the least talented of the lot, Rabo Karabekian is now a septuagenarian content to live out his days in his well-off dead wife's family home, on the proceeds of his extremely valuable art collection and his only company his cook, her daugh
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
“What will be found written after the name Rabo Karabekian in the Big Book on Judgment Day?

Soldier: Excellent.
Husband and Father: Floparroo.
Serious artist: Floparroo”

Loved this autobiography of the fictional painter Rabo Karabekian (who briefly appears in Breakfast of Champions and Deadeye Dick). In typical KV fashion, it touches on morality, war, and the human condition. And, of course, there’s that dark humor I so adore.
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was sad when it ended. I'll miss the wonderful characters Vonnegut
has created. But like all of Vonnegut's books, it's one I hope to revisit many times in the future.

Bluebeard is a fictional autobiography of a cranky old
Armenian modern painter living alone on a beachside estate. His life
is forever changed one day when he meets Circe Berman and is pressured
by her to write his autobiography – Bluebeard. We spend our time with
Rabo Karabekian divided between the present day, and the past. The
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
I was lured to this book by Breakfast of Champions, a Vonnegut book that I loved. But sadly I was disappointed. I wanted Vonnegut’s classic writing style; his unpredictable qualms, his interrogative view of the world and his illuminating illustrations. Instead, I received none of that. Bluebeard is unusual in comparison to his other books. Its critiques on the world and human life are blatant and deliberate, rather than his usual subtle remarks. The main character, Rabo Karabekian, is a widowed ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this story. Listening to elder folks tell their story & their perspectives can give insight to a time before mine.
Rabo Karabekian is writing is memoir and we, the readers, are in on the story. There's war, childhood, friendships, loss, gain...… there's Life in all it's turmoil.
Throughout Rabo is expressing his lament that his paintings, which he considers mediocre, are somewhat outside the realm of "great art". And yet he'd like them to withstand the test of time and remain....but th
Michael Gardner
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How would you describe Bluebeard? Well, it’s a story that imitates another story. It’s fiction imitating autobiography which ends up imitating a diary which also happens to imitate a French folktale.

You could say, it’s art imitating life, imitating life imitating art. Well, life imitating American postmodern art to be precise which, according to Rabo Karabekian, isn’t supposed to imitate anything. Imagine if they made a movie about this book. We’d have ourselves a party writing reviews.

I dunno,
Mar 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
The “Bluebeard” of the title is Rabo Karabekian, an abstract expressionist painter, who has also appeared in Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Karabekian is the narrator, and in addition to telling his own biography, he comments on modern art. I don’t like it as well as some of the other Vonnegut novels, but it’s worth reading for Vonnegut’s black humor and satiric social commentary. ...more
Tyler Jones
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Second Reading, May 2020:
I was in my early twenties when I first read this novel. I think young people are particularly drawn to Vonnegut. His anti-establishment attitudes resonated with young punks like me. It is a shame that more people don't read him, or re-read him, when they are older. Bluebeard is a book that the fifty-something me enjoyed even more than the twenty-something me did, which make sense as it is about a man at the end of his life coming to terms with his past. As such, the old
Sandi (Zorena)
I would call this the most mature of any of Vonnegut's books that I have read so far. I know that Vonnegut began his novel writing close to the age of 30 which is considered an adult but his work still lacked maturity. Which can be a good thing as his earlier works were meant to be biting satire and not high literature.

Bluebeard is more melancholy and less slapstick than Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions which he is more renowned for. It has a more subtle humour that lends itself t
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fictional Abstract Expressionists
Shelves: fiction
Vonnegut's biting satire comes through with this, his profile of fictional artist Rabo Karabekian. The book spans such events as the Turkish Armenian genocide, World War II, and the post-war climate in New York that gave birth to Abstract-Expressionism.

The genius of Vonnegut is his ability to see the humor in the worst tragedies, all of which he says are born of human folly. The protagonist just wants to live out his last days on his Long Island home but then is convinced by a seductive widow t
Bella Baghdasaryan
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

It’s an amazing feeling to read your favorite author’s book written about a person of your nationality. 'Bluebeard' is the imaginary autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, an abstract-expressionist painter and close friend of Rothko and Jackson Pollock in post-war New York. Although born in America of immigrant Armenian parents, he is haunted by their close escape from the first genocide of the twentieth century, the massacre by the Turks of a million of their Armenian citizens. Vonnegut did a good r

Joel Lacivita
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another interesting Vonnegut book. He covers the usual gamet of Vonnegut trademarks - WWII, a reactive protagonist (as opposed to proactive) how art can be quite useless etc... The book is filled with great quotes and many thought provoking ideas. It's not one of his most famous books partially because (in my opinion) it has so many cross over themes from his other novels. He's talked about some of these themes before but comes at them from a different angle in Bluebeard. A very brilliant writer ...more
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By far, my favourite Vonnegut book (though, to be fair, I've only read two others: Slaughterhouse-Five and Mother Night). I'm also biased because the main character was Armenian, and I could relate. Incidentally, however, I was inspired to read Vonnegut from YouTuber climbthestacks. Her video series on where to begin reading certain authors includes Vonnegut, and she too said her favourite book was Bluebeard, so I'm in good company :)

I read a library copy, but I'll definitely be buying this book
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vonnegut’s humor, cultural criticism and his anti-war messages were my favorite things about the book. Can’t really tell why but there is something different in his lines, nothing really happens but you feel engaged in the story. Before you even realize it suddenly becomes addictive. The flow of the book is fantastic. It’s not only funny and has magnificent satire but also the characters make you feel involved in them. I didn’t want to put it down and I am looking forward to reading more of his ...more
M. D.  Hudson
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
More Vonnegut...I really liked this one. Some of the smartest commentary on modern art (well, sort of modern -- the abstract expressionists) and just being human via art...Ah, I'm not doing this justice. It's grumpy and the ending is a little implausible (the final masterpiece sounds pretty cool the way a World War II diorama of infinite detail is cool...I like that sort of stuff, but I find it hard to consider it sublime, exactly). I miss Kurt Vonnegut. ...more
Samson Martirosyan
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It seems like every book by Vonnegut is better than the previous one I read.
Perfect satire, can't find many words to write a good review I just can say that I liked this biography of Rabo Karabekian, worth re-reading for sure <3 Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers!
Rachel Lu
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: post-modernism
One of my favorite teachers once told my class that Brothers K and Bluebeard were his two favorite novels of all time. To him, he said, great novels have been much more than entertainments or distractions. They’ve saved him, changed him, challenged him, awakened him. My only foray into Vonnegut then had been Slaughterhouse-Five. I knew little about Vonnegut’s oeuvre and even less about what his claim meant, but I was intrigued. Where and how did Bluebeard fit in his grandiose statement? At that ...more
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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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