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We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works [Format Kindle]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit

Présentation de l'éditeur

Called “our finest black-humorist” by The Atlantic Monthly, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Now his first and last works come together for the first time in print, in a collection aptly titled after his famous phrase, We Are What We Pretend To Be.

Written to be sold under the pseudonym of “Mark Harvey,” Basic Training was never published in Vonnegut’s lifetime. It appears to have been written in the late 1940s and is therefore Vonnegut’s first ever novella. It is a bitter, profoundly disenchanted story that satirizes the military, authoritarianism, gender relationships, parenthood and most of the assumed mid-century myths of the family. Haley Brandon, the adolescent protagonist, comes to the farm of his relative, the old crazy who insists upon being called The General, to learn to be a straight-shooting American. Haley’s only means of survival will lead him to unflagging defiance of the General’s deranged (but oh so American, oh so military) values. This story and its thirtyish author were no friends of the milieu to which the slick magazines’ advertisers were pitching their products.

When Vonnegut passed away in 2007, he left his last novel unfinished. Entitled If God Were Alive Today, this last work is a brutal satire on societal ignorance and carefree denial of the world’s major problems. Protagonist Gil Berman is a middle-aged college lecturer and self-declared stand-up comedian who enjoys cracking jokes in front of a college audience while societal dependence on fossil fuels has led to the apocalypse. Described by Vonnegut as, “the stand-up comedian on Doomsday,” Gil is a character formed from Vonnegut’s own rich experiences living in a reality Vonnegut himself considered inevitable.

Along with the two works of fiction, Vonnegut’s daughter, Nanette shares reminiscences about her father and commentary on these two works—both exclusive to this edition.

In this fiction collection, published in print for the first time, exist Vonnegut’s grand themes: trust no one, trust nothing; and the only constants are absurdity and resignation, which themselves cannot protect us from the void but might divert.

Biographie de l'auteur

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II. Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak. Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 379 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 184 pages
  • Editeur : Vanguard Press; Édition : First Trade Paper Edition (18 septembre 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°507.600 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The mordant but perceptive humour is unchanged 31 janvier 2013
Format:Format Kindle
This is confirmed for me. I wish there was more to come. I have always loved Vonnegut and these two stories are bookends to his work.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  71 commentaires
25 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Welcome to Ardennes Farm: trust no one, trust nothing... 23 mars 2012
Par John Williamson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
"Haley Brandon arranged his three white shirts in one corner of a deep bureau drawer, and nodded absently at the end of each of Annie's sentences. He was tired after a fitful night aboard a railroad coach, and glad that Annie was content to talk on and on without calling upon him to contribute to the conversation. She was a complete stranger to him, and not a very interesting-looking one at that."

From that second paragraph on the first page of the late Kurt Vonnegut's Basic Training, one can see that the author's signature attention to detail was already developed in this previously unpublished novella, released about 60 years after it was written. According to publisher RosettaBooks, "Basic Training" was a work rejected by the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940's, long before the late author had become famous through works such as his absurdist 1969 classic Slaughterhouse-Five and his 1963 satirical science fiction favorite Cat's Cradle.

Haley Brandon, the teenage protagonist, ventures from New York City to the Midwest farm of his relative, retired Brigadier General William Cooley, an old loon who insists upon being called "The General." Haley wants to go to Chicago to resume his music studies; The General promises to be the enabler, though he's "as tone deaf as a sparrow." Haley is there to do earn his way, with some "good, old-fashioned work," to learn to be a good straight-shooting American under the tutelage of his older, somewhat unstable relative. He moves into the farm with Anne Cooley, his cousin in her mid-twenties, along with her younger sisters, Kitty and Hope. And there's Mr. Banghart, the farm hand in his thirties, a courtly man with vocal capabilities and with a face "shaved and scrubbed to the luster of wax apples." We have the colorful Roy Flemming, who is Kitty's suitor and wants to take her away on his "nuptial motorcycle."

The descriptions of the settings and characters will not disappoint Vonnegut fans, as they're going to be familiar, from Hope, who "walked turtle-slow to the foot of the stairs," to Mr. Banghart, whose "lungs swelled like blacksmiths' bellows" as he began to sing. This novella is filled with such rich images. But as the story move on, like a rich descriptive tapestry being woven, it becomes clear that The General's promises may not what they appear to be. Haley's only method of survival will lead him to tenacious defiance of The General's increasingly delusional and authoritarian principles. There are surprises and there are secrets, and some of those are dark.

Vonnegut's "Basic Training" is a fascinating yet intensely disheartened story, one that derides authoritarianism, military values, relationships, parental rules and most of the expected traditions of the family from that era. The late author was good at that, and one can see from this early work that he had already honed his skills of which fans or his work are familiar.

As the book description noted, this work was penned to be sold under the author's alias of Mark Harvey yet it was never published in Vonnegut's lifetime. A little online research reveals that in the late 1940s, the author was working at GE in Schenectady, New York, and he was freelancing short stories to various popular magazines of that time, such as Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post. He was using the pseudonyms of David Harris and Mark Harvey to keep from being caught moonlighting.

Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007, and a good number of his unpublished works remained in Indiana, where he was born. RosettaBooks picked this novella from hundreds of other works that this author's literary executor had made available, and fans can only hope that they will soon release more of them.

22 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Basic Training as a coming of age story. 26 mars 2012
Par Richard E Murphy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
I am 75 years old and have never read a Vonnegut book before. I only did this one because it was free on my Kindle Lending Library. I loved it, it was a charming coming of age story. It was not an anti-military satire as the leftist writer of the Product Description called it. Always keep in mind that when Estates publish books, they are trying to make money from books that the author didn't think were good enough to publish during their lifetime. In any event it was a great little book and it has encouraged me to read more Vonnegut.
30 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Humiliating & Unnecessary 12 janvier 2013
Par Alexander T. Newport - Publié sur Amazon.com
Let me begin this review by listing my favourite Vonnegut novels---that way you can see what my standards are.

The Sirens of Titan
Mother Night
Cat's Cradle
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Slaughterhouse 5
Breakfast of Champions

Kurt Vonnegut had at least 2 phases in his career as an author. The first was when he was writing safe, careful fiction for magazines, and the second was when he wrote irreverent, novel-length narratives in his flagrantly subjective style.

This book, We Are What We Pretend to Be, offers 2 items: The first, Basic Training, written in the 1940s, is a long story of about 80 pages. It was written during his magazine phase. From a technical point of view, it was written well. The sentences are constructed nicely and the story flows at a good pace. But there is nothing irreverent about the story and we do not "hear" Vonnegut's voice. It is not the least bit funny or clever. It's just a run of the mill story which he was unable to get published---and rightly so.

The second item, If God Were Alive Today, written in 2000, is presented as a NOVELLA, when in fact it is nothing more than a 1st draft of a tentative novel that Vonnegut abandoned long before he was even close to finishing it. It is appallingly stupid, lame, and not the least bit funny, and there is no way whatsoever that Vonnegut would have approved of releasing it to the public. It was clearly just a helpless, sputtering emission from a machine that couldn't stop itself from going through the motions---even though 5 of its 8 cylinders no longer worked. It was only a writer's exercise; something to do rather than watch television. He didn't have any intention of finishing it---or publishing it.

In the Foreword, written by Nanette Vonnegut, it talks about If God Were Alive Today and it says, "...there is hilarity, wisdom, and redemption along the way."
No there isn't.
Not at all.

Nanette should be red-faced with shame. From here on forward she shall be known as Tomato Vonnegut.

Talk about a rip-off...and scraping the bottom of the barrel...

And the worst thing about this book is that a brilliant title was wasted on it!

Shame on you, Tomato Vonnegut---and Vanguard Press---and all the ignorant sycophants who praise this graveyard robbery.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Vonnegut, off to a fast start 27 mars 2012
Par Rett01 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
"Basic Training" is a piece of Americana, a coming-of-age post WWII domestic short story about finding your place in the world that might have been published in "Boys Life" or more likely "The Saturday Evening Post," where it might have been illustrated with a Normal Rockwell tableau representing American ideals and moreover hope.

Hope is one of the main characters. She becomes the object of desire of the kid, the archetype, Haley Brandon, an adolescent naïf with smarts, sincerity and a great stash of innocence who wants to play the piano but ends up - as children often do in this genre - an orphan, toiling dawn to dusk on his uncle's farm outside Chicago.

Hope Cooley, her sisters Kitty and Anne and now Haley make up a Midwestern farm family subjected to the iron will of retired Brigadier General William Cooley, "The General," a tyrant with a cold, cold heart who presides over his family as he led his soldiers, with rules and discipline.

Although the General "tries to solve everything buy saying no," Vonnegut also gives the overbearing head of the family a molecule or two of compassion, and it's discovering this deeply buried bit of empathy that gives the story much of its resonance.

Haley owns the tale and he's our prism for viewing the American nearing the half-century mark, a place that more often than not tends to be no more dangerous "than mice in a corncrib."

There's a hint of Holden Caulfield, Augie March and Huck Finn in the kid, and you get the clear sense the heartland that Haley is growing up in will have room to accommodate his expansive sense of hope and optimism.

The tale is funny, sad, endearing and satiric. It's everything Vonnegut except the science fiction. It's also violent but the violence is delivered in a way that's antiseptic so that when someone ends up with a knife sticking out his chest, there is no blood or gore to mess things up.

Part of a trove of unpublished material, "Basic Training" is an early work, an introduction to a career that shined for a half century. It's Vonnegut off to a great start.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 What did you expect? 6 mars 2013
Par John R. - Publié sur Amazon.com
I scanned both stories from "We Are What We Pretend to Be" before I tok it home. At first glance, "Basic Training" seemed like a simple straight forward story that might be enjoyable and readable. While "If God Were Alive Today" appeared to be a social/political rant as told through a fictional comedian and is reminiscent of some previous works where words were strung together with little or no coherence. My first impressions turned out to be pretty much on the money and I would have probably put it back on the shelf if not for the fact that Mr Vonnegut is an Indiana treasure and by reading these stories perhaps I could pay a silent homage to a fellow Hoosier whose work filled my young adult formative years with the opinion that things are not always what they appear to be. If you are looking for a literary masterpiece by Mr Vonnegut then this book probably will not meet your expectations. Then again, everyone interprets things differently and maybe I'm wrong. The only way to find out is to read it for yourself.
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