3 A.M. BOOK REVIEWS
KURT VONNEGUT, GALAPAGOS
by James Brundage
Copyright © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
If you were to ask me what about Kurt Vonnegut makes him such a damn good author, I would answer without hesitation that it is his ability to tell a story that should meander, that, in point of fact, does meander, and make you inhale it like a Disco bar coke addict. His most recent (and, in my opinion, close to most disappointing title) Timequake I went through in a matter of hours, and, only when the final line had come did I realize that the big WHAM that I was awaiting was never going to come. The title that I downright dislike Deadeye Dick I could still give a second read by virtue of the fact that it is entertaining.
You see, reading Kurt Vonnegut is akin to watching a horror movie directed by Peter Greenaway - it is intellectually stimulating, it walks that line between pulp and pop but never quite falls into the masses of cheap fiction. Vonnegut is the pied piper of literature: he sits down at his keyboard, plays his tune, and we will follow him until we find the Weser wide rolling over us.
Galapagos ends up being one of Vonnegut's more interesting endeavors, if only for the fact that Galapagos is the exact middle child of everything Vonnegut can be. Its perspective is incredibly imaginative (the narrator, dead throughout the entire story, tells his tale from 1,001,984 A.D.), its prose is incredibly addictive, and it possesses a clear meaning. Yet its meaning (one of Vonnegut's standard lines: that the 1980s were a second Great depression that the media just failed to notice) fails to resonate into even the next decade - let alone 20 years later, and the story is structured so that it is fit into two "major" portions, one occupying about 3/4ths of the book. Its story also hops around, giving details we don't need to know but, no matter how long we go with the expectation that some massive plot twist will come around, none ever does.
Yet, we cannot look away.
Vonnegut tells his tale with such an adept hand that you can't help but zoom through it and, although you might be getting more earth-shaking ideas by reading The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler, it's doubtful that you'll have so much fun. In fact, as far as combining fun and intellectual stimulation go, Galapagos works almost perfect. And, since we're not watching movies (and in it just for the fun), we're probably here for a bit of both. So, as they would say on yet another tropical island (one I would much rather be on), go with it mon.
Vonnegut: The Official Homepage:
The Vonnegut Web:
The Kurt Vonnegut Artificial Family Utopia Webpage:
The Salon interview:
Order Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos (London: Jonathan Cape, 1985) from: AMAZON.CO.UK
James Brundage has been a freelance writer and film critic since 1995. He has lost count of how many movies he has seen. One of the only writers to only receive payment for online work, James has been working for online publications since 1997. He is now something of an Internet guru, running the electronica band "Godard is Dead" off of MP3.com, managing the electronic syndication group Hypocritical Syndication, being one of the most popular film reviewers on Epinions, and running the fledgling Flash 4 website design company Unfinished Productions. He is also editor-in-chief of Short Stuff a short film reviews site. He attends Kent State University.
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