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.
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.
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