Friday, November 28, 2008

Armageddon in Retrospect

Armageddon in Retrospect
© 2008 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Trust
232 pages.

Reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that things have to be the way they are, that you are alone, that no one has ever felt the way you have. What occurs to people when they read Kurt is that thigns are much more up for grabs than they thought they were. The world is a slightly difference place just because they read a damn book. Imagine that. - Mark Vonnegut

Armageddon in Retrospect, published posthumously, is Kurt Vonnegut's final collection of short stories and essays. A fan of Vonnegut recommended the book to me, although I probably would have read it anyway. (He works in the university library and so was able to check it out before I spotted it.) I had hoped the book is a collection of anti-war essays, but it is closer to a collection of short stories than a collection of essays. The book opens with a letter written from Vonnegut to his family during the war -- he fought during World War 2 for a few minutes before being captured by Germans during the Battle of the Bulge -- and a speech he gave, and all that follows is short stories.

Vonnegut's short stories tend to be hit and miss for me, although I did enjoy most included in this book. There were a couple that I read through without really understanding them, but they were happy exceptions. Most of the stories deal with the war in some form or another: in "Guns Before Butter", a gang of POWs are obsessed with food recipies, to the annoyance of their German supervisier; in "Brighten Up", Vonnegut tells the story of a prisoner-turned-collaborator; in "The Commandant's Desk", Vonnegut examines Amerian occupation. "The Commandant's Desk" is probably my favorite of the stories.

My favorite piece in the book is "Wailing Shall Be in All Streets", which is a nonfiction essay where Vonnegut describes the Dresdren bombing. All in all, rather interesting. I'm glad I read the book.


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