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Fates Worse Than Death PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Fates Worse Than Death
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Publisher: Published September 1st 1992 by Berkley (first published July 1st 1982)
ISBN: 9780425134061
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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"Honest and scarily funny, and it offers a rare insight into an author who has customarily hidden his heart."--New York Times "An anthology in which Vonnegut freely quotes himself on everything from art and architecture to madness and mass murder...Uncompromising."--Los Angeles Times Here we have a collection of essays and speeches by me, with breezy autobiographical commen "Honest and scarily funny, and it offers a rare insight into an author who has customarily hidden his heart."--New York Times "An anthology in which Vonnegut freely quotes himself on everything from art and architecture to madness and mass murder...Uncompromising."--Los Angeles Times Here we have a collection of essays and speeches by me, with breezy autobiographical commentary serving as connective tissue and splints and bandages. Here we go again with real life and opinions made to look like one big, preposterous animal not unlike an invention by Dr. Seuss... --Kurt Vonnegut, from Fates Worse Than Death

30 review for Fates Worse Than Death

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I read this book all the way through on June 6 2007, in the lobby of the Executive West hotel in Louisville, KY while my husband took his radiology boards. It was as if Kurt Vonnegut himself was seated beside me and had spent that day with me. He made me laugh, he made me think and he took my mind off of the matter at hand. It was one of the bright sunny, wonderful days of one's life and I am so happy that Kurt was part of it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    This is Vonnegut’s last in the trio of “autobiographical collages,” which is a canny way of presenting various nonfiction materials without having to impose a structure on the book. This is the most shambolic of the three—firstly, Fates Worse Than Death is divided into conventional chapters, so the reader has no contents table to peruse the various speeches Kurt reproduces here from recent public speaking events. And the book is mostly reproduced public speeches, most of which are entertaining a This is Vonnegut’s last in the trio of “autobiographical collages,” which is a canny way of presenting various nonfiction materials without having to impose a structure on the book. This is the most shambolic of the three—firstly, Fates Worse Than Death is divided into conventional chapters, so the reader has no contents table to peruse the various speeches Kurt reproduces here from recent public speaking events. And the book is mostly reproduced public speeches, most of which are entertaining and erudite in his typical style, but some of which become tiresome. Imagine sitting through several hours of Vonnegut lecturing. That effect is created here. On the positive side, although he repeats facts about his life from previous books ad nauseam (did you know he worked for General Electric? and was at Dresden?), the commentary on his family is illuminating among the shrubbery of opinion. Not to say the revelation he tried to commit suicide in the 1980s, which is barely discussed and leaves me craving more detail. So yes, absolutely for diehards only. Those wishing to dip a toe into his nonfiction try Palm Sunday.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maurizio Manco

    “Non sono andato a scegliermi gli antenati e considero il mio cervello e il mio corpo come una casa che abito, costruita molto tempo prima che fossi nato.” (p. 28)   “Io so essere più svelto della Chiesa Cattolica Romana nell’annunciare chi è santo, dato che non richiedo prove da aula di tribunale sulla capacità dimostrata dal tal dei tali in almeno tre occasioni, di compiere magie con l’aiuto di Dio. Per me è sufficiente se una persona […] trova senza difficoltà che tutte le razze e le classi so “Non sono andato a scegliermi gli antenati e considero il mio cervello e il mio corpo come una casa che abito, costruita molto tempo prima che fossi nato.” (p. 28)   “Io so essere più svelto della Chiesa Cattolica Romana nell’annunciare chi è santo, dato che non richiedo prove da aula di tribunale sulla capacità dimostrata dal tal dei tali in almeno tre occasioni, di compiere magie con l’aiuto di Dio. Per me è sufficiente se una persona […] trova senza difficoltà che tutte le razze e le classi sono ugualmente rispettabili e interessanti, e non le ordina secondo il loro denaro.” (p. 219)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    "Съдби, по-лоши от смъртта" вероятно не е най-добрата книга на Кърт Вонегът, но със сигурност е една от тези с най-силен личен елемент. Многото автобиографични моменти в нея са посветени на събитията и личностите, повлияли силно на формирането му като човек и автор - войните, депресиите (икономически и лични), смъртта, голямото му семейство, приятели, музиканти, писатели и много безименни хора. В разказите за повечето от тях, чиито мечти, възгледи и манталитет се разминават с общоприетите или са "Съдби, по-лоши от смъртта" вероятно не е най-добрата книга на Кърт Вонегът, но със сигурност е една от тези с най-силен личен елемент. Многото автобиографични моменти в нея са посветени на събитията и личностите, повлияли силно на формирането му като човек и автор - войните, депресиите (икономически и лични), смъртта, голямото му семейство, приятели, музиканти, писатели и много безименни хора. В разказите за повечето от тях, чиито мечти, възгледи и манталитет се разминават с общоприетите или са неподходящи за съответния исторически момент и поради това те остават бедни, самотни, неизвестни, неразбрани и неполучили заслужената си слава, се доловя тъга. С горчивина и типичните за него хумор и цинизъм продължава разсъжденията си от други книги за безмислието на войните и пораженията след тях, за изтъняващия морал на политиците, променените и почти липсващи ценности, за бъдещето на планетата, която сме на път да унищожим сами. "Какви други съдби, по-лоши от смъртта бих могъл да посоча? Може би живот без петрол? В мелодрамите отпреди век често се твърди, че загубата на девствеността преди свещените окови на брака е съдба, по-лоша от смъртта… Мисля си, че бих умрял по-скоро в името на девствеността, отколкото в името на петрола. Струва ми се някак по-литературно. Много е важно какъв шеф ще си избереш, чии мечти ще превръщаш в действителност. И днес си оставаме луди. Защото приемаме съвсем спокойно въздушните нападения над цивилното население на градове и села, независимо дали сме ги обявили предварително или не, независимо дали сме обявили война или не. Дори нещо повече — ние се гордеем с тях, възприемаме ги като символ на национална гордост, по подобие на Камбаната на свободата. Може би появата на планетата Земя е предварително програмирана, а крайната цел на програмата е да пръснем тази планета на хиляди късчета. Може би ние сме оръдието, чрез което Природата е в състояние да създава нови галактики. Ако ние успеем да обезлюдим тази планета, Майката-природа положително ще я върне към живот. Всичко, което ще й трябва за поредното лукаво намигане, са няколко милиона години. Има ли в историята голяма група човешки същества, която да не се бори с всички средства за правото си на живот? Има. Войниците. "По-добре смърт, отколкото безчестие" е мотото на няколко значителни военни формации по време на Гражданската война, при това и от двете страни. В допълнение ще кажа, че поне аз не съм чувал за враг, който иска да ни третира така, както ние третираме американските индианци. Аз обаче смятам, че безкритичното уважение към древните мислители е нещо доста опасно и ще ви кажа защо. Защото всички те, почти без изключение, са били убедени привърженици на тезата, че жените, бедните и представителите на малцинствата имат място на тази земя, само за да работят до изтощение, да бъдат верни слуги на мъжете от бялата раса, които единствени имат право да вземат важни решения и да бъдат лидери на останалите. Един факт си остава непроменен: жените не са привърженици на неморалните технологии в степента, в която ги обожават мъжете. Това очевидно е резултат от някакви хормонални недъзи. Вероятно по тази причина в демонстрациите срещу всякакви оръжия за унищожение участват много повече жени, отколкото мъже и на всичкото отгоре, водят и децата си. Подобно на своите деди-пуритани, аз също мисля, че Бог е непознаваем и следователно не можем да Му служим. По тази причина всички ние трябва да служим на своето общество, чиито нужди са съвсем видими и познаваеми. Това, което не мога да понасям в церемониалните проповеди, е изхвърлянето от страна на повечето оратори, които твърдят, че вярата в божествеността на Исус е път към ПОБЕДАТА. Какво е смъртта? Липса на живот. И винаги ще бъде именно това. Смъртта е нищо. Защо тогава вдигаме толкова шум около нея?"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    As I work my way through his books, I find that I love his speeches and essays far more than his fiction. That is a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved this book - perhaps more than Palm Sunday. There are too many passages to quote but I'll note a few: "We were in hell, thanks to technology which was telling us what to do, instead of the other way around. And it wasn't just TV. It was weapons which could actually kill everything half a world away. It was vehicles powered by glurp from undergrou As I work my way through his books, I find that I love his speeches and essays far more than his fiction. That is a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved this book - perhaps more than Palm Sunday. There are too many passages to quote but I'll note a few: "We were in hell, thanks to technology which was telling us what to do, instead of the other way around. And it wasn't just TV. It was weapons which could actually kill everything half a world away. It was vehicles powered by glurp from underground which could make a fat old lady go a mile a minute while picking her nose and listening to the radio." In the same chapter, he talks about how technology has helped us travel to other countries and to learn about other cultures, something that used to be exclusively for people studying anthropology. "So we now know for certain that there are no potential human enemies anywhere who are anything but human beings almost exactly like ourselves. They need food. How amazing. They love their children. How amazing. They obey their leaders. How amazing. They think like their neighbors. How amazing."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carey

    I enjoyed this book gosh darn too much. to quote: "Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah, Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah! Dah dah dah dah dah, Dah dah dah dah dah! Dah dah dah dah dah fucking cunt."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Glen Krisch

    3.5 stars. Vonnegut is always worth reading. Solid, not stellar.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I was first introduced to Vonnegut through his fiction, which is a good portion of what he's written. And that those works are great - he has some unique and interesting ideas, and he has the ability to wrap a funny, compelling, and meaningful story around them. I eventually stumbled upon the group of Vonnegut's publications, like this one, which feature him speaking in his own voice, presenting his experiences and ideas first hand. And to me, that was so utterly refreshing. Reading his fiction, I was first introduced to Vonnegut through his fiction, which is a good portion of what he's written. And that those works are great - he has some unique and interesting ideas, and he has the ability to wrap a funny, compelling, and meaningful story around them. I eventually stumbled upon the group of Vonnegut's publications, like this one, which feature him speaking in his own voice, presenting his experiences and ideas first hand. And to me, that was so utterly refreshing. Reading his fiction, you can just tell that there's a very interesting man behind the words. Reading his thoughts unfiltered offers glimpse after glimpse into the life he lived. But, when those thoughts themselves are somewhat lackluster, the reading experience loses a bit of it's appeal. That's how I felt with this book. In it, Vonnegut quotes a book that claims aging American humorists inevitably end up "mouthing sardonic fables in a bed of gloom." I'm sorry to say it, but much of the supposed substance here is just the essence of that bed of gloom. Now that the thrill of hearing from Vonnegut himself has somewhat worn off for me, the thoughts he has to offer here are mostly just negative, and often uninteresting. That being said, it's not all bad: there are indeed a few shining moments in here. In any case, this book was certainly not a sign of Vonnegut's impending doom in this realm of writing, as the excellent semi-novel Timequake was still yet to come. Though his approach is quite different, Vonnegut manages to accomplish there something along the lines what he was trying to do here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I love Vonnegut memoirs, and this one is right on par with Palm Sunday. As someone interested in religion, I appreciated how directly Kurt addresses his own atheism/sloppy Unitarianism, and what he perceives as the failures of Christianity. It always surprises me how much I enjoy the perspectives of this smoky old curmudgeon. This book was written at about the same time as his novel "Hocus Pocus," which is one of his most negative and weakly written novels. It's strange how this memoir then spea I love Vonnegut memoirs, and this one is right on par with Palm Sunday. As someone interested in religion, I appreciated how directly Kurt addresses his own atheism/sloppy Unitarianism, and what he perceives as the failures of Christianity. It always surprises me how much I enjoy the perspectives of this smoky old curmudgeon. This book was written at about the same time as his novel "Hocus Pocus," which is one of his most negative and weakly written novels. It's strange how this memoir then speaks with the "younger" (confident and likable) Vonnegut voice, as heard in novels like "Breakfast of Champions," and which returns later in "Timequake" in particular. I was lucky enough to purchase my copy of this one at the KV memorial museum in Indianapolis, which is worth a visit if you're ever in Indy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    It's one to dip into rather than read cover to cover. A collection of essays and speeches unsurprisingly there is a bit of repetition. But as with all Vonnegut what he says is worth hearing, warm, funny, bewildered and cynical yet hopeful. Often in the same paragraph. I didn't alwAys agree, but I always enjoyed reading this. And the world's dirtiest limericks joke made me giggle on the train

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is Vonnegut's third nonfiction collection, and covers the 80's. A weaker effort; I thought there was a lot of padding in the book, Vonnegut is grumpier (and seriously depressed), and there is a bit too much name-dropping of his famous author friends. His shtick is starting to get old. But in fairness he admits all of this in the book (except the name-dropping).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Кайти Кат

    Brilliant.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    If I could give this a 4.5 star, I completely would. This book is self-awareness at its finest. Of course, I thoroughly adore Vonnegut. This is the 18th book I've read of his, and I may be getting so excited about this because I haven't read one of his works in so long. It was refreshing to be immersed in his style again, to feel understood by his witty and unconventional perspective. Some people may think that this books is rather dark, seems tired, and isn't the most perfectly written. But tha If I could give this a 4.5 star, I completely would. This book is self-awareness at its finest. Of course, I thoroughly adore Vonnegut. This is the 18th book I've read of his, and I may be getting so excited about this because I haven't read one of his works in so long. It was refreshing to be immersed in his style again, to feel understood by his witty and unconventional perspective. Some people may think that this books is rather dark, seems tired, and isn't the most perfectly written. But that is what I love about it. Kurt Vonnegut lets us into his life and into his world, being raw and honest about things that have happened. I will say that it takes a decent understanding of Vonnegut's previous works and his life story to fully grasp the context in which this work is written. I loved it. I will keep saying that a hundred times. This book gives the most excellent argument for gun control I have ever read, and presents well-formed ideas on environmentalism and religion. Such an intelligent work, so beautifully written. This gives a selection of all the outstanding selections of Vonnegut's writings/speeches/articles/etc. without being overburdening to the reader. His commentary after the fact is hilarious and brings up good points. It is indeed a somber work, but one that gets you thinking and is so excellently written. Classic Vonnegut, though clearly towards the later years of his career. This is an insightful read and set apart from his novels and short stories, because he is so self-aware in presenting an autobiographical collage of his life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brad Bell

    A sequel to one of Vonnegut’s earlier essay collection Fates Worse Than Death gives a glimpse into Kurt’s life in the mid 90’s and explores how he was feeling after the death of his best friend and his feeling that his life was coming into the final stages and what he thought that meant. There’s lots of good stuff here for Vonnegut fanatics like myself, back story on novels, people in his life that inspired characters in his novels like Billy Pilgrim. It also explores many themes that Vonnegut wa A sequel to one of Vonnegut’s earlier essay collection Fates Worse Than Death gives a glimpse into Kurt’s life in the mid 90’s and explores how he was feeling after the death of his best friend and his feeling that his life was coming into the final stages and what he thought that meant. There’s lots of good stuff here for Vonnegut fanatics like myself, back story on novels, people in his life that inspired characters in his novels like Billy Pilgrim. It also explores many themes that Vonnegut was fond of talking about, war, government and religion. He spends some time discussing his suicide attempt that he previously wouldn’t comment on and this chunk I found the most informative and interesting part of the whole book. As I said earlier in the review this book is really for huge fans of Vonnegut. Most people won’t pick up and read this book since it is specific to ideas and opinions that Vonnegut explores in novels and novels are usually a more digestible form for people to get a hardline to all things Vonnegut. But this book does go over themes he’s explored extensively before so that’s why it gets a lower rating then most of his other stuff but I’m biased when it comes to Vonnegut, I love his voice and his writing no matter the format.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Raimo Wirkkala

    The late, great Kurt Vonnegut points out, right at the outset, that no one had "clamored" for this "sequel" to the earlier-published (and far superior) "Palm Sunday". This hodge-podge of commencement speeches, magazine articles and, of all things, sermons, does have the virtue of the intros, extros and commentary written by Vonnegut especially for this volume in an attempt to hold together what they (his publishers) would have the reader believe is an "autobiographical collage" (2.0). Vonnegut hi The late, great Kurt Vonnegut points out, right at the outset, that no one had "clamored" for this "sequel" to the earlier-published (and far superior) "Palm Sunday". This hodge-podge of commencement speeches, magazine articles and, of all things, sermons, does have the virtue of the intros, extros and commentary written by Vonnegut especially for this volume in an attempt to hold together what they (his publishers) would have the reader believe is an "autobiographical collage" (2.0). Vonnegut himself didn't seem entirely convinced and, in the opinion of this Vonnegut fan, this book foreshadows what was to come after the author's death; the relentless publication, in one book after another, of anything and everything the man ever scribbled on to a piece of paper and left lying around. If you love Vonnegut, as I do, you will want to read this book even if it makes you a little sad. His publishers knew that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Reianna

    "Q: What is your idea of happiness? A: Imagining that something somewhere wants us to like it here." There is, quite honestly, almost nothing I wouldn't do to have a conversation with Kurt Vonnegut. I don't know why or how, but I love every single thing he wrote. All of it. Every word, sentence, paragraph, story, book, idea, concept, opinion...all of it. I have never so resonated with an author before I first read Slaughterhouse-Five. I have never so fallen in love with the way someone writes; not "Q: What is your idea of happiness? A: Imagining that something somewhere wants us to like it here." There is, quite honestly, almost nothing I wouldn't do to have a conversation with Kurt Vonnegut. I don't know why or how, but I love every single thing he wrote. All of it. Every word, sentence, paragraph, story, book, idea, concept, opinion...all of it. I have never so resonated with an author before I first read Slaughterhouse-Five. I have never so fallen in love with the way someone writes; not just what he writes about, but how he actually writes it. My copies of his books are riddled with highlights and notes and pretty much every page is tabbed. I can't help it. There's something about him that gets me. Or something about me that gets him. I don't really know. I also don't know how to review this book. It's an assortment of speeches and essays that he's written over the years, along with insights to his family and relationships with various people in his life. It's enlightening. I wouldn't read this if you aren't a big fan of his; I don't think this book could be truly enjoyed if you don't genuinely like Vonnegut and his style. However, if you are a fan, please read this. You won't regret it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jared Mackinnon

    This would make a terrible introduction for readers new to Vonnegut. I'm a huge fan, I enjoyed this disjointed collage of musings. It would be fair to assume Vonnegut has a cynical tone throughout this book but the more I've come to understand him, I read it as a total lack of confidence in his perspective, which I appreciate and find refreshing. I finished this book several weeks ago and have had to dig back in to find a passage here and there that was spinning around in my head.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    Overall, this wasn't as strong as his other "autobiographical collages," a la Palm Sunday. However, this does contain one of my all-time favorite Vonnegut passages about a child learning how to play with the universe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    9/10. This book is almost 30 years old yet it still speaks the truth through humor. Anytime I read Vonnegut, I wonder what he would have to say about the current state of his the world. Like Twain, he lives on through his moralized writings.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Heath-Caldwell

    Rather dated cynicism from Kurt Vonnegut - a good writer but dousing everything with negativity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Willard Brickey

    A bitter, often clumsy, subpar Vonnegut book oddly salvaged in the final act by a glorious appendix.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    Vonnegut's autobiographical collage is as entertaining, if not more, than his fiction. Witty and heartfelt.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leslie D. Soule

    As with Vonnegut's novels, this one jumps around from subject to subject. But, it is highly entertaining, nonetheless.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Dickson

    this one was a little dry. still Kurt though, he’s a beautiful soul.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lly_th

    Not as good as his other writings.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tom Sadira

    Like most Vonnegut it's rambly, profound, and the intimate stories he tells about his life are incredibly insightful. Easy and engaging, it was a pleasure to read. Highly recommended to the karass of hardcore Vonnegut fans.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vaas

    ========== (Между красками и пистолетами больше общего, чем я прежде думал. И краски, и пистолеты навевают владельцам мысли о странных, а возможно, замечательных вещах, которые с их помощью можно сделать.) ========== А Олгрен, день за днем и год за годом непосредственно наблюдая американцев, подвергшихся дегуманизации, утверждал примерно вот что: "Послушайте-ка, те люди, которым вы так сострадаете, что у вас сердце обливается кровью, большей частью действительно народ тупой и озлобленный. Это факт, ========== (Между красками и пистолетами больше общего, чем я прежде думал. И краски, и пистолеты навевают владельцам мысли о странных, а возможно, замечательных вещах, которые с их помощью можно сделать.) ========== А Олгрен, день за днем и год за годом непосредственно наблюдая американцев, подвергшихся дегуманизации, утверждал примерно вот что: "Послушайте-ка, те люди, которым вы так сострадаете, что у вас сердце обливается кровью, большей частью действительно народ тупой и озлобленный. Это факт, только и всего. А вы не знали?" ========== Когда шла первая мировая, Соединенные Штаты втянулись в войну так поздно, что американец, способный рассказать невыдуманный боевой эпизод, да еще получивший ранение, казался редкой птицей. Вот таким и был Хемингуэй. ========== Но невыдуманные боевые эпизоды сильно упали для американцев в цене после второй мировой войны, когда нас миллион за миллионом посылали в Европу, а вернувшись, мы уже не нуждались в Хемингуэе, чтобы представить себе, что такое война. ==========

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lukasz Pruski

    "According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child watches 18,000 TV murders before it graduates from high school." I share a substantial portion of my worldview with Kurt Vonnegut so when I read his books I must feel like the huge majority of Internet users who read only the stuff that they agree with: we crave confirmation that we are so very right. Alas this also means that I probably tend to overrate Vonnegut's books even when they are not that outstanding. Fates Wor "According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child watches 18,000 TV murders before it graduates from high school." I share a substantial portion of my worldview with Kurt Vonnegut so when I read his books I must feel like the huge majority of Internet users who read only the stuff that they agree with: we crave confirmation that we are so very right. Alas this also means that I probably tend to overrate Vonnegut's books even when they are not that outstanding. Fates Worse than Death (1991) is not a very good book at all - unfocused, repetitive, tedious in places - yet I still like it a lot. How can one not like reading things that one agrees with? The subtitle, An Autobiographical Collage, aptly characterizes this collection of speeches, short pieces of writing, and ruminations on various topics, which makes Fates quite similar to Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons , although Fates is a significantly less cohesive work. Even if the 1945 bombing of Dresden is still a major topic I will omit it here because I have already written about it in reviews of other works by Vonnegut, including his absolute masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five . One of the other main themes is the environment. Note the book was written over a quarter of a century ago, when worrying about climate change, etc. was not as popular as it is now. Mr. Vonnegut had been passionate about the human race destroying the planet for our children and grandchildren well before most of us began thinking about it. While speaking at MIT he begged the graduating class to take an oath that they will use their extraordinary technical skills only to the benefit of the planet. Mr. Vonnegut spends a substantial portion of the book attacking the deadly one-two punch of what I call the "American culture of murder." A US citizen is born and raised in the parareligious cult of guns as devices signifying and guaranteeing freedom; this cult is continually reinforced by the never-ending stream of murders depicted by the TV and entertainment industry (as mentioned in the epigraph). The author says: "Who needs a Joseph Goebbels to make us think killing is as quotidian an activity as tying one's shoes? All that is needed is a TV industry [...]" Book censorship is a topic that should be dear to members of Goodreads and Vonnegut's books had been banned in certain places, ostensibly for vulgarity but in reality for not conforming to the views of the majority of people. "There is the word 'motherfucker' one time in my Slaughterhouse-Five [...] Ever since that book was published, way back in 1969, children have been attempting to have intercourse with their mothers. When it will stop no one knows." Clearly the m-word corrodes the moral fiber of the society. Another hilarious passage is devoted to "the wittiest limerick in the world", which is "so obscene that it could never be made public in any form." We can read the unspeakably obscene poem courtesy of Rita Rait, the Russian translator of Vonnegut's works. On a serious note, the theme that speaks to me the strongest in the entire collection is the author's rant about the insanity of encouraging people "to do their best at loving [other people]." The natural inability to love other people leads to hate; people should be told to respect others instead. Vonnegut says "I like to think that Jesus said in Aramaic, 'Ye shall respect one another.'" Anyway, Fates, objectively, is not an above average work, yet I almost love it because I respect the author's intentions. Two and a half stars.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hansen Wendlandt

    One of the main themes of Vonnegut’s career, and of these essays, is that families, and from them our own personal psyches, have been devolved by modern life. The best we can do with its “rootlessness, mobility, and impossibly tough-minded loneliness” (35) is synthetic families, such as AA, the military, artists or (God-forbid) church. Most of this collection, in fact, critiques our modern (early 90’s) world, with a minor key given to the failures of Christianity. To the latter, “What I can’t st One of the main themes of Vonnegut’s career, and of these essays, is that families, and from them our own personal psyches, have been devolved by modern life. The best we can do with its “rootlessness, mobility, and impossibly tough-minded loneliness” (35) is synthetic families, such as AA, the military, artists or (God-forbid) church. Most of this collection, in fact, critiques our modern (early 90’s) world, with a minor key given to the failures of Christianity. To the latter, “What I can’t stand are sermons which say that to believe in the divinity of Jesus is a way to win.” (239) Truly winning has nothing to do with it, but how fascinating that it takes someone who hates the religion to point it back on track! To the former, oh, where to start! Statistics tend to distract a narrative, but in this case, Vonnegut’s gem facts make his argument without seeming like an ‘argument’. Namely these: that the average WW2 soldier who died was 26, the average Vietnam soldier was 20; the antebellum suicide rate for slave owners was higher than for slaves; the average American child watches 18,000 TV murders before it graduates from high school. We are a sad people… What else is wrong with us? “Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation.” (110) “If Western Civilization were a person, we would be directing it to the nearest meeting of War Preparers Anonymous.” (135) And yet, “Should addicts of any sort hold high offices in this or any other country? Absolutely not, for their first priority will always be to satisfy their addiction, no matter how terrible the consequences may be—even to themselves.” (136) “What other fates worse than death could I name? Life without petroleum?” (144) “I listen to the ethical pronouncements of the leaders of the so-called religious revival going on in this country, including those of our president, and am able to distill only two firm commandments from them. The first commandment is this: ‘Stop thinking.’ The second commandment is this: ‘Obey.’” (158) So how does one live in such an environment? Seven steps… 1. Reduce and stabilize your population. 2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil. 3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems. 4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it. 5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars. 6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean and stupid. 7. And so on. Or else. (112) And if you can manage that, and you want to write about it, Vonnegut often offers advice, although this is only one of two books I know of, in which that advice includes a) use the right words, regardless of how often or how simple (such as, “to be or not to be”, which wouldn’t pass in college writing today) and b) do not feel compelled to write a story in which nothing much happens.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    Ten years on, Vonnegut followed up "Palm Sunday" with this excellent collection of non-fiction which should stand as evidence to those who bemoaned the end of his career as a novelist that he had outgrown any need to dress his observations up as stories. From this point on (1991), he would limit himself to short fiction (mostly collected from earlier in his career) and non-fiction, with one regrettable exception (1997's "Timequake"). It's not hard to figure out why. Vonnegut was always a moralis Ten years on, Vonnegut followed up "Palm Sunday" with this excellent collection of non-fiction which should stand as evidence to those who bemoaned the end of his career as a novelist that he had outgrown any need to dress his observations up as stories. From this point on (1991), he would limit himself to short fiction (mostly collected from earlier in his career) and non-fiction, with one regrettable exception (1997's "Timequake"). It's not hard to figure out why. Vonnegut was always a moralist, but as he grew older, the sheer effort involved in wrapping his morals up within intricate plot lines, submerging them in symbolism and metaphor, and allowing them to emerge as dialogue from carefully constructed characters must have become increasingly daunting... and exhausting for a man entering his seventh decade. Surely there have been some Vonnegut fans who felt let down, perhaps even cheated, by his decision to set aside his formidable skills as a novelist. At one time I felt that way too. But as I myself grow older I gain an appreciation for his decision. And, truth be told, the man was always entertaining, even without recourse to fiction. This collection is really the third in a series, starting with 1974's "Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons," which covered his non-fiction through the early 70s. "Palm Sunday" admirably covered the later 70s, when Vonnegut was much in demand as a speaker, and contains a considerable number of speeches. This volume, slimmer, but dense, presents various speeches and articles written during the 80s and, as such, gives more direct insight into the author's views of the Reagan era than can be gleaned from his four intervening novels. This is also, like those two previous volumes, highly autobiographical in nature, seeming to pivot around the death of his best friend, Bernard O'Hare, whom he had first met as a young soldier. Vonnegut's take on the 80s is much what one would expect, which does not detract in any way from the bite of his ever-acerbic wit. He had earned his place as an elder statesman the hard way, and if he seems particularly stung by the reaction of critics to his then-more-recent novels, he also seems just as quick to shrug it off and, ultimately, disregard his critics as "those who cannot write." Although he does not say so in as many words, it is clear that he had some sense that his days as a novelist were in the process of drawing to a close. He seems palpably aware that his bitterness is ripening with old age, as a decade of rampant conservatism filled the headlines with moral outrage after moral outrage, and with no end in sight. So at a time when he was becoming naturally more jaded, there was ever more to be jaded about. And he would continue to offer his opinions on the state of our society, and our world, into the 90s and beyond. This was a first glimpse of the latter-day Vonnegut, not quite as pessimistic as Twain became, or, perhaps, just funnier to the end.

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