Fates Worse Than Death

Fates Worse Than Death

An Autobiographical Collage

eBook - 2011
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Kurt Vonnegut presents in Fates Worse than Death a veritable cornucopia of Vonnegut's thought on what could best be summed up as perhaps "anti-theology", a manifesto for atheism that details Vonnegut's drift from conventional religion, even a tract evidencing belief in the divine held within each individual self; the Deity within each individual person present in a universe that otherwise lacks any real order. Vonnegut was never a real optimist and with just cause: he had an incredibly difficult life (he had been a prisoner of war from which he drew the title for his book Slaughterhouse-Five) and suffered from failing health, which only showed him his own mortality even more than he already knew it. Still, most readers find that in the body of Vonnegut's work there is still a glimmer of desperate hope. Vonnegut's continued search for meaning surely counts for a great deal as he balances hope and despair. Scholars and fans can read about Vonnegut's experiences during World War II and the after-effect he felt it had on him. His religious (or anti-religious) ramblings and notations are interesting and, by turns, funny and perceptive. The humor may be dark, but that does not make it any the less funny.
Publisher: Made available through hoopla, 2011.
[United States] : RosettaBooks, 2011.
Characteristics: data file
1 online resource
Additional Contributors: hoopla digital


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Dec 25, 2016

A fate worse than death is never having read Kurt Vonnegut.

Many readers first met Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five, considered now to be his most famous work. And from there they have read other Vonnegut works, which include short stories, with "A Night for Love" perhaps the best love story ever written. There are other readers, who have been less fortunate in having read first Vonnegut's gloomy Deadeye Dick and they let the exploration of gloom get the better of them, thus Vonnegut was not to be read further.

Some readers may think the Vonnegut writings are an acquired taste; others may find his works instantly accessible. Whatever the readers may think, there is an odd beauty to Fates Worse than Death, which begins with the oobleck of Dr. Seuss fame and ends with "the second-funniest clean joke in the world."

Fates Worse than Death is extraordinary in that Vonnegut quotes from his essays and talks and critiques himself while expanding on the talks. Kurt may have been the last of the humble men in America when the keys of his typewriter became quiet in 2007. How he wrote what he did is beyond extraordinary given his horrific experiences that followed his capture as an infantryman in WWII. After the war he realigned himself emotionally and psychologically, but with a skew that made him one of the most insightful writers of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Here Vonnegut drives through fates using his conventional weapons: satire, humor, rarified insight. Vonnegut talks fates into being practical or perish. It may not be daring for the reader to think Vonnegut knew, while writing this book, that the original meaning of "fate" is "to speak."

Each chapter in Fates is a case history. It would have been nice if each chapter had a worded title other than Chapter I, II, III, etc. Perhaps Kurt intentionally left it to the reader to choose what the titles should be.

Fates Worse than Death shares some Vonnegut secrets, which include, for example, why he is "frightened of women." Perhaps the greatest secret, which will not be a secret to some readers, appears in Chapter II (p. 31). Here he states the villains in his books "are never individuals." Then he goes on to say the villains are "culture, society, and history."

From his speech to the American Psychiatric Association in Philadelphia (1988), Kurt quotes himself as saying (p. 31) what shall serve as the perfect ending for this review: "Like most writers, I have at home the beginnings of many books which would not allow themselves to be written."

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