Slapstick, Or, Lonesome No More!

Slapstick, Or, Lonesome No More!

eBook - 2006
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Random House, Inc.
Slapstick presents an apocalyptic vision as seen through the eyes of the current King of Manhattan (and last President of the United States), a wickedly irreverent look at the all-too-possible results of today’s follies. But even the end of life-as-we-know-it is transformed by Kurt Vonnegut’s pen into hilarious farce—a final slapstick that may be the Almighty’s joke on us all.

Rosetta Books

Perhaps the most autobiographical (and deliberately least disciplined) of Vonnegut’s novels, Slapstick (1976) is in the form of a broken family odyssey and is surely a demonstration of its eponymous title. The story centers on brother and sister twins, children of Wilbur Swain, who are in sympathetic and (possibly) telepathic communication and who represent Vonnegut’s relationship with his own sister who died young of cancer almost two decades before the book’s publication.

Vonnegut dedicated this to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Like their films and routines, this novel is an exercise in non-sequentiality and in the bizarre while using those devices to expose larger and terrible truths. The twins exemplify to Swain a kind of universal love; he campaigns for it while troops of technologically miniaturized Chinese are launched upon America. Love and carnage intersect in a novel contrived to combine credibility and common observation; critics could sense Vonnegut deliberately flouting narrative constraint or imperative in an attempt to destroy the very idea of the novel he was writing.

Slapstickbecomes both product and commentary, event and self-criticism; an early and influential example of contemporary “metafiction.” Vonnegut’s tragic life--like the tragic lives of Laurel, Hardy, Buster Keaten and other exemplars of slapstick comedy--is the true center of a work whose cynicism overlays a trustfulness and sense of loss which are perhaps deeper and truer than expressed in any of Vonnegut’s earlier or later works. Slapstick is a clear demonstration of the profound alliance of comedy and tragedy which, when Vonnegut is working close to his true sensibility, become indistinguishable.

Baker & Taylor
Flying to a favorite uncle's funeral, a middle-aged Kurt Vonnegut daydreams of one-hundred-year-old Wilbur Oriole-11 Swain, pediatrician and past United States President, who wrote history's most popular child-rearing manual and sold the original Louisiana Purchase

Publisher: New York : Dial Press, 2006, c1976
ISBN: 9780795319310
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Alternative Title: Slapstick
Lonesome no more!

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Mar 08, 2018

Really, really weird stuff here. Vonnegut described it as being as close to an autobiography as he would ever write, but that aspect of it manifests itself more through characters and feelings than the actual events of the story; the plot of the book is based around two horribly ugly twins, who function essentially as two halves of a brain, and can combine their minds into one super powerful being. Vonnegut creates a story full of absurdity which tries to examine loneliness, family, religion, and other such topics. Very interesting read overall, typical Vonnegut humour, more scattered than most of his other books, you get the classic “repeated phrase after all the funny parts” that he likes to use. Would recommend to fans of Vonnegut’s less realistic side; 4/5.
- @zlogan of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Oct 18, 2017

Weirdest book that I've ever read.

Oct 25, 2016

Only Kurt Vonnegut could create "the closest…to writing an autobiography," in which he and Alice, his "beautiful sister," appear as twin "monsters." They have six fingers on each hand and are so ugly their super-rich parents hide them in a mansion while they are growing up. They are "freaks" in being "happy all the time."

Only a Vonnegut autobiography starts out in a non-nuclear post-apocalyptic world, with Kurt as Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain holding the defunct title of President of the United States. The subtitle of the book is the campaign slogan Dr. Swain used to win the presidency: Lonesome No More! As for the title of the book, it came from Alice, who, in Kurt's prologue to the story, referred to "her own impending death" at the age of 41 with four young boys as "slapstick."

The autobiography apparently is Kurt's response to the destiny that he, his brother and sister "were interchangeable parts in the American machine." Most, if not all, readers can relate to this view of life in America, hence the autobiography, as zany and weird as it is, becomes universal.

Wilbur's twin monster is named Eliza. Together they form a "genius" that takes "great intuitive leaping." This affinity opens up the story to their insights on the Constitution and Darwin's Theory of Evolution. This short section in the book is a gem.

Here's a sample of what else you'll find in Vonnegut's imaginative autobiography:

—miniaturized Chinese, who know the secret to traveling to Mars and may be responsible for the sudden surges in Earth-bound gravity that have reduced the population of standing buildings and bridges. (As for the human population, it was reduced by a bad case of the flu.)
—a paranoid psychologist
—the Island of Death
—tiny green pills that promote good deportment
—the few women the narrator (Wilbur Swain) "failed to love." ("Swain" with a small "s" is defined as a man who is a lover of a girl or young woman; when Wilbur was 70 years old, the wife he had then was 23.)
—The Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped
—the King of Michigan
—spiritual cannibalism
—many, many paragraphs followed by the tag "Hi ho." (Readers of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five will recall the frequent use of "So it goes.")
—an ending in German

If you want to know what the "Daffodil-11" in Wilbur's name means, you'll have to read the story. A lesson may be learned in solving this mystery.

Aug 07, 2010

Has to be one of my new favourite books. Kind of depressing, but in a hilarious and hopeful way...


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