Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pearls Before Swine

The therapist, after a deeply upsetting investigation of normality at this time and place, was bound to conclude that a normal person, functioning well on the upper levels of a prosperous, industrialized society, can hardly hear his conscience at all.

I've concluded that Kurt Vonnegut is hit-or-miss for me. Thus far, I have read two and a half Vonnegut novels: Timequake (abandoned), Mother Night (loved), and now, for my local book club, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine. Conclusion: meh.

Our book club leader is a former English teacher in his early sixties. He first read Mr. Rosewater shortly after it came out while he was in high school. I was literally rolling off the bed, I was laughing so hard, he recalled. Similar reactions from the others: it was so funny! I was like That One Guy.

To make matters worse, I couldn't even articulate what it was that turned me off. We read quite a few passages out loud (such as the therapist's theories about Samaritphobia) and even I had to admit that they certainly were humorous. A couple of the older members were nevertheless surprised at how bitter the tone was compared to their first readings years or even decades ago. There were several comparisons made to Twain, who I do enjoy, and I could definitely see where they were coming from but. . . I just can't figure out why I didn't like this particular book! It was also agreed that Vonnegut's style is very plain and unsubtle, so maybe that was it. I do tend to approach prose from an aesthetic perspective.

Kurt Vonnegut is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, one guy summed up, but it's what's in the fine dust that matters.

"That's how Mother Night was for me," I said. "I don't know why this book wasn't."

Maybe it was a case of pearls before swine.


Caitlin said...

I don't like him all that much either, although my son and husband both love him. I've always wondered if liking him might be a boy thing. *grins*

Emily said...

Sadly for you, I think Mother Night is the anomaly as far as Vonnegut novels go; most of them are more in this vein. I love him & think he's hilarious, but there's nothing more frustrating than a bunch of people insisting one should find something funny when one is not that amused. We are both "that guy" in our reviews today! :-)

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