Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: We Are What We Pretend To Be

We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last WorksWe Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Being a Kurt Vonnegut fanatic who has read every work of fiction by the author (Or so I think), I was super psyched to get my hands on my favorite author's first and last works, both unpublished. Well, after reading the two stories, the best word I have for the book is "uneven," which is to be expected since neither story was ever published. I can say this--his first work, which preceded Player Piano, "Basic Training" is much better than his last work, "If God Were Alive Today," which was part of an unfinished novel. "Basic Training" concerns a young man who becomes a farmhand on his uncle's farm, and while that may seem boring, the story is actually quite brilliant. "The General" is a fun character in the story, as he's part John Wayne, part Patton. Quite frankly, I loved it.

I wish I could say the same for "If God Were Alive Today," but I just can't. It's a jumbled mess. The story is about a comedian who...well, I don't know. Most of it is just rambling and bad jokes. I'm sure if it was worked on and hammered out more, it would probably be a good, and even funny novel. But as it stands, it's a colossal misfire that I wish I never read at all, as it does nothing to further Vonnegut's career in my eyes. What is interesting though is the glimpse we get into Vonnegut's writing process. With this unfinished story, we get a sense of just how Vonnegut pieced together his stories. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Vonnegut is spinning in his grave now that we're able to see such an unedited piece of Doggerel.

All the same, if you're a completist like myself, then you have to read this book. Now, if only I could get myself to read "Letters," which is just what it sounds like, a series of letters written by Vonnegut and others, I would have read EVERYTHING by the author. But it's just so boring, and I'm not sure that if even I, a devout Vonnegut reader, can get through it. Ay, caramba! What a cash-in.

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