Walter Starbuck, a career humanist and eventual low-level aide in the Nixon White House is implicated in Watergate and jailed. Jailbird (1979) uses the format of the memoir to retrospectively trace Starbuck's uneven, centerless and purposeless odyssey in or out of the offices of power. The Nixon- like characterwho passes across the panorama of Jailbird is no more or less ambiguous than Starbuck himself - a man without qualities whose overwhelming quality is one of imposition.
Walter Starbuck, a career humanist and eventual low-level aide in the Nixon White House, is implicated in Watergate and jailed, after which he (like Howard Campbell in Mother Night) works on his memoirs. Starbuck is innocent (his office was used as a base for the Watergate shenanigans of which he had no knowledge) and yet he is not innocent (he has collaborated with power unquestioningly served societal order all his life). In that sense, Starbuck is a generic Vonnegut protagonist, an individual compromised by the essential lack of interior.
Jailbird (1979) uses the format of the memoir to retrospectively trace Starbuck’s uneven, centerless and purposeless odyssey in or out of the offices of power. He represents another Vonnegut Everyman caught amongst forces which he neither understands nor can defend. Written in the aftermath of Watergate, Jailbird is, of course, an attempt to order those catastrophic events and to find some rationale or meaningful outcome, and, as is usually the case with Vonnegut’s pyrotechnics, there is no easy answer or perhaps there is no answer at all.
Starbuck (his name an Americanized version of his long, foreign birth name), in his profound ambiguity and ambivalence, may himself constitute an explanation for Watergate, a series of whose consequences have not, almost forty years later, been fully assimilated or understood. The Nixon who passes across the panorama of Jailbird is no more or less ambiguous than Starbuck himself--a man without qualities whose overwhelming quality is one of imposition.
Kurt Vonnegut is a unique voice in the American canon—a writer whose works are hard to categorize, often straddling the space between literature and science fiction, and filled with cutting satire and dark humor. Like Mark Twain before him, Vonnegut's reputation and impact on American writing and reading will continue to grow steadily and increase in relevance as new insights are made.Vonnegut was born in 1922 in Indianapolis, and studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Tennessee. In the Second World War, he became a German prisoner of war and was present during the bombing of Dresden. This experience provided inspiration for his most successful and influential novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut—admired as much for his views and his "Vonnegutisms" as for his publications—wrote extensively in many forms, including novels, short stories, essays, plays, articles, speeches, and correspondence, some of which was published posthumously.A lifelong friend of Kurt Vonnegut’s, Dan Wakefield both edited and wrote the Introduction to the bestselling collection of Vonnegut's personal correspondence, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. In addition, Wakefield is the author of the memoir New York in the Fifties, which was made into a documentary film, as well as Returning: A Spiritual Journey. He created the NBC prime time series "James at Fifteen" and wrote the script for the movie based on his novel Going All The Way, starring Ben Affleck.
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