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Slapstick
 
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Slapstick [Format Kindle]

Kurt Vonnegut

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Descriptions du produit

Amazon.com

Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, centenarian, the last President of the United States, King of Manhattan, and one-half (along with his sister, Eliza) of the most powerful intelligence since Einstein, is penning his autobiography. He occupies the first floor of a ruined Empire State Building and lives like a royal scavenger with his illiterate granddaughter and her beau. Buffeted by fluctuating gravity, the U.S. has been scourged by not one, but two lethal diseases: the Green Death and the Albanian Flu. Consequently, the country has fallen into civil war. (Super-intelligent, miniaturized Chinese watch the West self-destruct from the sidelines.) Swain stayed at the White House until there were no citizens left to govern, then moved to deserted New York City, where he writes a thoughtful missive before death.

In Slapstick, Vonnegut muses on war, man's hubris, and the awful, crippling loneliness humans are freighted with--but, miraculously, the book still manages to delight and amuse. Absurd, knowing, never depressing, Slapstick kindles hope--for the possibility of wisdom, perhaps; for human resiliency, surely.

It's best to end with a quote from the prologue wherein the author discourses on The Meaning of It All, or at least This Book: "Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go off looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.
I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, 'Please--a little less love, and a little more common decency.'"
Amen.

Extrait

Prologue


This is the closest I will ever come to writing an autobiography. I have called it "Slapstick" because it is grotesque, situational poetry--like the slapstick film comedies, especially those of Laurel and Hardy, of long ago.

It is about what life feels like to me.

There are all these tests of my limited agility and intelligence. They go on and on.

The fundamental joke with Laurel and Hardy, it seems to me, was that they did their best with every test.

They never failed to bargain in good faith with their destinies, and were screamingly adorable and funny on that account.

. . .

There was very little love in their films. There was often the situational poetry of marriage, which was something else again. It was yet another test--with comical possibilities, provided that everybody submitted to it in good faith.

Love was never at issue. And, perhaps because I was so perpetually intoxicated and instructed by Laurel and Hardy during my childhood in the Great Depression, I find it natural to discuss life without ever mentioning love.

It does not seem important to me.

What does seem important? Bargaining in good faith with destiny.

. . .

I have had some experiences with love, or think I have, anyway, although the ones I have liked best could easily be described as "common decency." I treated somebody well for a little while, or maybe even for a tremendously long time, and that person treated me well in turn. Love need not have had anything to do with it.

Also: I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs.

When a child, and not watching comedians on film or listening to comedians on the radio, I used to spend a lot of time rolling around on rugs with uncritically affectionate dogs we had.

And I still do a lot of that. The dogs become tired and confused and embarrassed long before I do. I could to on forever.

Hi ho.

. . .

One time, on his twenty-first birthday, one of my three adopted sons, who was about to leave for the Peace Corps in the Amazon Rain Forest, said to me, "You know--you've never hugged me."

So I hugged him. We hugged each other. It was very nice. It was like rolling around on a rug with a Great Dane we used to have.

. . .

Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.

I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, "Please--a little less love, and a little more common decency."

. . .

My longest experience with common decency, surely, has been with my older brother, my only brother, Bernard, who is an atmospheric scientist in the State University of New York at Albany.

He is a widower, raising two young sons all by himself. He does it well. He has three grown-up sons besides.

We were given very different sorts of minds at birth. Bernard could never be a writer. I could never be a scientist. And, since we make our livings with our minds, we tend to think of them as gadgets--separate from our awarenesses, from our central selves.

. . .

We have hugged each other maybe three or four times--on birthdays, very likely, and clumsily. We have never hugged in moments of grief.

. . .

The minds we have been given enjoy the same sorts of jokes, at any rate--Mark Twain stuff, Laurel and Hardy stuff.

They are equally disorderly, too.

Here is an anecdote about my brother, which, with minor variations, could be told truthfully about me:

Bernard worked for the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York, for a while, where he discovered that silver iodide could precipitate certain sorts of clouds as snow or rain. His laboratory was a sensational mess, however, where a clumsy stranger could die in a thousand different ways, depending on where he stumbled.

The company had a safety officer who nearly swooned when he saw this jungle of deadfalls and snares and hair-trigger booby traps. He bawled out my brother.

My brother said this to him, tapping his own forehead with his fingertips: "If you think this laboratory is bad, you should see what it's like in here."

And so on.

. . .

I told my brother one time that whenever I did repair work around the house, I lost all my tools before I could finish the job.

"You're lucky," he said. "I always lose whatever I'm working on."

We laughed.

. . .

But, because of the sorts of minds we were given at birth, and in spite of their disorderliness, Bernard and I belong to artificial extended families which allow us to claim relatives all over the world.

He is a brother to scientists everywhere. I am a brother to writers everywhere.

This is amusing and comforting to both of us. It is nice.

It is lucky, too, for human beings need all the relatives they can get--as possible donors or receivers not necessarily of love, but of common decency.

. . .


When we were children in Indianapolis, Indiana, it appeared that we would always have an extended family of genuine relatives there. Our parents and grandparents, after all, had grown up there with shoals of siblings and cousins and uncles and aunts. Yes, and their relatives were all cultivated and gentle and prosperous, and spoke German and English gracefully.

. . .

They were all religious skeptics, by the way.

. . .

They might roam the wide world over when they were young, and often have wonderful adventures. But they were all told sooner or later that it was time for them to come home in Indianapolis, and to settle down. They invariably obeyed--because they had so many relatives there.

There was good things to inherit, too, of course--sane businesses, comfortable homes and faithful servants, growing mountains of china and crystal and silverware, reputations for honest dealing, cottages on Lake Maxinkuckee, along whose eastern shore my family once owned a village of summer homes.

. . .

But the delight the family took in itself was permanently crippled, I think, by the sudden American hatred for all things German which unsheathed itself when this country entered the First World War, five years before I was born.

Children in our family were no longer taught German. Neither were they encouraged to admire German music or literature or art or science. My brother and sister and I were raised as though Germany were as foreign to us as Paraguay.

We were deprived of Europe, except for what we might learn of it at school.

We lost thousands of years in a very short time--and then tens of thousands of American dollars after that, and the summer cottages and so on.

And our family became a lot less interesting, especially to itself.

So--by the time the Great Depression and a Second World War were over, it was easy for my brother and my sister and me to wander away from Indianapolis.

And, of all the relatives we left behind, not one could think of a reason why we should come home again.

We didn't belong anywhere in particular any more. We were interchangeable parts in the American machine.

. . .

Yes, and Indianapolis, which had once had a way of speaking English all its own, and jokes and legends and poets and villains and heroes all its own, and galleries for its own artists, had itself become an interchangeable part in the American machine.

It was just another someplace where automobiles lived, with a symphony orchestra and all. And a race track.

Hi ho.

. . .

My brother and I still go back for funerals, of course. We went back last July for the funeral of our Uncle Alex Vonnegut, the younger brother of our late father--almost the last of our old-style relatives, of the native American patriots who did not fear God, and who had souls that were European.

He was eighty-seven years old. He was childless. He was a graduate of Harvard. He was a retired life insurance agent. He was a co-founder of the Indianapolis Chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous.

His obituary in the Indianapolis Star said that he himself was not an alcoholic.

This denial was at least partly a nice-Nellyism from the past, I think. He used to drink, I know, although alcohol never seriously damaged his work or made him wild. And then he stopped cold. And he surely must have introduced himself at meetings of A. A. as all members must, with the name--followed by this brave confession: "I'm an alcoholic."

Yes, and the paper's genteel denial of his ever having had trouble with alcohol had the old-fashioned intent of preserving from taint all the rest of us who had the same last name.

We would all have a harder time making good Indianapolis marriages or getting good Indianapolis jobs, if it were known for certain that we had had relatives who were once drunkards, or who, like my mother and my son, had gone at least temporarily insane.

It was even a secret that my paternal grandmother died of cancer.

Think of that.

. . .

At any rate, if Uncle Alex, the atheist, found himself standing before Saint Peter and the Pearly Gates after he died, I am certain he introduced himself as follows:

"My name is Alex Vonnegut. I'm an alcoholic."

Good for him.

. . .

I will guess, too, that it was loneliness as much as it was a dread of alcoholic poisoning which shepherded him into A. A. As his relatives died off or wandered away, or simply became interchangeable parts in the American machine, he went looking for new brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces and uncles and aunts, and so on. Which he found in A. A.

. . .

When I was a child, he used to tell me what to read, and then make sure I'd read it. It used to amuse him to take me on visits to relatives I'd never known I had.

He told me one time that he had been an American spy in Baltimore during the First World War, be...

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 317 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 290 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : B002CC0YQ4
  • Editeur : RosettaBooks (21 août 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005IHWCF6
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  119 commentaires
49 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Find yourself rethinking the obvious and loving it. 2 mai 2006
Par M. Strong - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat authentifié par Amazon
When reading Vonnegut, I find myself rethinking subjects I pass over in day-to-day life without a second thought. It makes me feel enlightened, like I have some unique perspective on the world. In reality, the only credit I deserve is for my choice of reading material. Vonnegut so effectively carries his reader to a different point from which to view the world that you barely notice that you didn't get there yourself. What could be a greater testament to an author than that?

All of Vonnegut's novels accomplish the same feat, but this one does it more, or better. As this book wound down, I became sad - not because I didn't want the story to end, but because I didn't want the feeling of seeing the world from a unique place to end. Fortunately, once you put the book down, a lot of that new perspective stays with you.

This is a great book for anyone who wants to see the world in ways they haven't before. Very highly recommended.
50 internautes sur 54 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Cornerstone of Satirical Accomplishment! 1 mars 2002
Par J. Sesta - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I am almost AFRAID to write this review, as "Slapstick" is my all-time favorite book, and I feel that an amateur review somehow cheapens it.
This story covers a lot of territory in a short period of time, but, as is the case with 99% of Vonnegut's work (I exclude "Timequake"), it is all tied together into one perfectly flowing storyline.
The main theme in "Slapstick" is lonliness, and the inexplicable human condition that forces each individual to search for acceptance into something bigger than just individual identity.
If you've never read a Vonnegut book, this should be your first choice, as it is one of the best examples of Kurt Vonnegut's uncanny ability to make the reader laugh out loud at tragic/sad situations.
24 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 My favorite of Vonnegut's works 18 juin 2000
Par Jane James - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Vonnegut himself said he couldn't decide if this book was his worst - or his best.
I love this one and it's my favorite Vonnegut book.
In it he actually discusses his own life a good bit, and his relationship with his sister, with whom he was very close. I felt like I had a much better idea of who Vonnegut is after reading this one.
The two main characters are very engaging, and the story is classic Vonnegut -- you gotta love people despite all their faults. The story is post-Apocalyptic, as so many of his stories are, but it has a more positive feel to it than many of them, despite the poor circumstances the people are in.
The message that life goes on is a hopeful one. I found the relationship between the main characters to be very thought-provoking. I think the critics vilified this one when it was first published, and I can't say that if you like Vonnegut you'll love this one -- because even some of his fans didn't like this one so much.
But if you like the idea of 2 soulmates being better together than they are separately, and if you've a fondness for the idiosyncracies of geniuses, you might like this one as much as I did.
25 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Not one of his better books 25 août 2008
Par John M. Lemon - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I have mixed feelings about Kurt Vonnegut. I always admire the way he writes - his ability to propel me through a book, quickly and effortlessly. I know there will be a few good laughs, some heart-wrenching tragedy, and some wry or clever social commentary. When he is at the top of his game, he is one of the best. I really enjoyed Breakfast of Champions and I consider Slaughterhouse Five to be a masterpiece. So every couple of years, I read another Vonnegut book, hoping to recapture that magic.

But here's the thing - while I like the way Vonnegut writes, I often find myself not really liking the actual story. The plot devices are too silly, too cute, or too absurd to be taken seriously. Or worse, the jokes fall flat or the satire is uninspired.

Slapstick has all of these faults with none of the rewards. After 25 pages, I knew the book was a dud and seriously thought about putting it down. But it is just so easy to read, I kept on, hoping it would improve. But to no avail. If anything, it lost momentum about half-way through the book, when the Wilbur's twin sister, Eliza, moves out of the story. Overall, the plot is foolish and ridiculous. The funny parts aren't that funny, and the sad parts are only occasionally poignant or tragic. Finally, the satire isn't clever or insightful; rather, it feels obligatory and halfhearted.

So I kept thinking, what is the point of this book? That Kurt Vonnegut mourns the loss of his sister, the one person he wrote for? While her death is sad, Slapstick only hints at his pain, so the reader never fully appreciates the extent of his loss.

Perhaps the point is that simple human decency is desirable and the cornerstone of a functional society. Okay. But I already knew that, and this book didn't really do much to show me why I need a reminder.

I found out soon after reading Slapstick that Vonnegut considered it to be one of his worst books. If you love Vonnegut, go ahead and give it a whirl. You'll plow through it in a couple of hours. But if you are new to Vonnegut or just lukewarm on him, give this one a pass.

Hi ho.
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 From epidemic loneliness to "lonesome no more!" 8 février 2006
Par R. McOuat - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
In the prologue, Vonnegut says that he wrote this book based on a dream he had while sleeping on a plane. The book has a dreamy feel to it, kind of a Lucy-in-a-Sky-with-Diamonds quality. The main narrator, Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, is a tall and hideously ugly monster. Like other monsters from other books (the monster in Frankenstein, the Devil in Paradise Lost, John Garder's Grendel, Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame), Wilbur is rejected from society. Wilbur is fortunate to have a twin sister with whom his interaction (like Yin and Yang), influences the destinies of creatures and things. Humanity, in its apparent self-righteousness and fear, separates the two. Wilbur is still smart enough to become a pediatrician, but he is only a shadow of his potential self.

Vonnegut points out that monsters are okay as long as they don't want respect or to feel included. So, isn't it interesting that Wilbur becomes president of the United States with the campaign slogan of "Lonesome no more" and the platform of assigning each citizen to an extended family. To Vonnegut, a central course for societal improvement is the creation of artificial family groups to connect the masses and alleviate the lonely. In contrast to "individualism" and "objectivism," Vonnegut exalts the premise that life is made easier and more enjoyable when artificial family members are relied upon to provide sustenance and companionship. In Slapstick, Vonnegut proposes that our species is incapable of relationships without artificial governmental intervention. We are insular in our differences and innately callous towards each other.

Briefly after Wilbur's apotheosis to President, the gravitational conditions begin to change like the pressure systems of weather. The United States collapses into kingdoms governed by local lords and there is a civil war. Apparently, Vonnegut does not expect his extended family initiative to end war, but he proposes that war would be more humane since everyone will know they have family members on the other side. During the battle, the soldiers that are hugging newly found relatives outnumber the soldiers that are shooting each other.

As in other Vonnegut books, the ruthless pursuit of knowledge proves dangerous. The Chinese not only disrupt the steady pull of gravity into a debilitating ebb and flow, but they also make themselves smaller and smaller, becoming so small they can be inhaled. Unfortunately, an inhaled Chinese person is not good for you and a rampant new plague is created called Green Death. Eventually, "Green Death" causes the total destruction of everyone in New York City ("Sky Scraper National Park") with the exception of one extended family (Raspberry's) that developed an antidote.

If inhaled china men and sixty-nining sibling monsters does not sound funny to you, then you may want to skip this one. Vonnegut presents the question that has been asked by Mary Shelley, John Milton, John Gardner, Victor Hugo and others: Are we monsters living in an increasingly civilized society, or are we increasingly civilized men living in a monstrous society?
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Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous. I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, Pleasea little less love, and a little more common decency. &quote;
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The museums in childrens minds, I think, automatically empty themselves in times of utmost horrorto protect the children from eternal grief. &quote;
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Eliza and I believed then what I believe even now: That life can be painless, provided that there is sufficient peacefulness for a dozen or so rituals to be repeated simply endlessly. &quote;
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