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Friday, July 29, 2011

Ranking Vonnegut

I’ve read all 14 of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, a book of his short stories, and plenty of his essays and other non-fiction pieces. There really no other author for whom I’ve made that effort toward completeness. But because I read so much of his in my teen years, and I have subsequently discovered what an ignoramus I was for most of that time (I am truly sorry I ever slandered you, The Great Gatsby) I always worry that I overestimated his literary talents. So I have been ever so slowly rereading his novels over the last year or so. I’ve reread Cat’s Cradle and found myself somewhat disappointed, but was also pleasantly surprised by God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. It’s an interesting experience. Right now I’m in the midst of rereading Mother Night, and it is also holding up quite well.

I thought I might rank the fourteen Vonnegut novels as I rate them now, and then perhaps reconsider the arrangement after I’ve reread them all. Note: I have never actually disliked any of his novels, so it was very hard to put any of these novels last, especially since it partly became a statement on how much or how little I remembered of the book, instead of its actual quality. On that basis I might put a priority on rereading the novels at the bottom of the rankings.

14. Player Piano
-first novel. Not bad, just not as good as the others.
13. Deadeye Dick
-honestly don’t remember much about it.
12. Slapstick
-Vonnegut disliked this book, but I had a better opinion of it.
11. Galapagos
-Interesting affectations but a so-so story about evolution and genetics.
10. Timequake
-A barely finished novel inter-spliced with personal thoughts.
9. Jailbird
-This is where they start to get really good. Satire of Watergate and America.
8. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
-Lunatic rich person. Lots of lawyer jokes too.
7. Hocus Pocus
-Vonnegut on Vietnam and the penal system.
6. Cat’s Cradle
-An attack on organized religion. Source of Vonneguy’s neologisms kurass, wampeters, foma, and granfaloons.
5. Bluebeard
-satire of modern art.
4. Mother Night
-satire of espionage and patriotism.
3. Breakfast of Champions
-Panoramic satire of America fused with black comedy of a psychotic used-car salesman
2. Sirens of Titan
-If I felt the need to be contrarian I’d put this number one. It’s a great combo sci-fi/literary novel.
1. Slaughterhouse-Five
-the first one I ever read, and the best. Classic anti-war novel because it recognizes how ineffective anti-war novels are.

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