Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Deadeye Dick

At this point, the formula for a Kurt Vonnegut novel is so clear and familiar that it's almost completely transparent, but they're still so enjoyable to read that it's hardly worth caring. Like a lot of his work, Deadeye Dick is less a novel with a plain, straightforward narrative and more of a jumbled memoir of a character who seems like some possible version or aspect of Vonnegut himself, examining the absurdities of life and America and society through events that range almost everywhere on the scale between hilarious and depressing. He had his method down to a science by the 80s, and the result is yet another easy to read book that I liked a lot and wouldn't mind going through again.

This particular book is about Rudolph Waltz, a man born in the 1930s to very silly parents and whose entire future is affected when he accidentally does something horrible when he's twelve years old. We learn a lot about his life and the lives of his close family members, and also little snippets about the various other residents and famous events in Midland City. As far as recurring Vonnegut elements go, the novel returns to science fiction with the concept of a neutron bomb that can wipe out the residents of a town without actually affecting the non-living landscape, and it shares a location and some characters with Breakfast of Champions. I'm not sure that the two stories can actually be reconciled into a single continuity, but that was never the point of Vonnegut's writing anyway. Deadeye Dick isn't his most innovative or surprising work, but it's still a very entertaining and occasionally poignant novel, which is pretty much the writer's real trademark.

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