Vonnegut was a memorable novelist, but this work is, though memorable, entirely something else: Vonnegut has assembled some powerful and disturbing confessional essays which take the curtain between writer and novelistic material aside, and in some pieces like the "Self Interview" published in The Paris Review no. 69 or the audacious 1972 short story, "The Big Space F***," Vonnegut has produced material as potent and disturbing as any of his novels.

Vonnegut was a memorable novelist, but this work is, though memorable, entirely something else: Vonnegut has assembled some powerful and disturbing confessional essays which take the curtain between writer and novelistic material aside, and in some pieces like the “Self Interview” published in The Paris Review no. 69 or the audacious 1972 short story, “The Big Space F***,” Vonnegut has produced material as potent and disturbing as any of his novels.

There are political speeches and endorsements (“Dear Mr. McCarthy”), blistering self-evaluation (“I Am Embarrassed”) and the kind of consideration of contemporaries (the review of “Something Happened”) which function as direct testimony. Even when writing in occasional mode, Vonnegut was unable to escape a sense of occasion, and perhaps no modern collection has been as painfully self-exposed as this by a writer who of course was always self-exposed, a writer who made Delmore Schwartz’s “wound of consciousness” his true text.

Palm Sunday (1981) can best be described as an “occasional book”, the kind of potpourri which a successful (or not so successful) novelist would drop in-between books. Usually, though by no means always, a short story collection, the occasional work is meant to keep the writer’s name (and work) before the public during a fallow time. The work in it is assembled from magazine publications or journalistic pieces and although regarded as secondary, it has proven in the cases like those of A.J. Liebling or Dorothy Parker to be the exemplary testimony of the writer. This is not the case here.

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Author Description

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels - Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan - were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.


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