Only Kurt Vonnegut could create "the closest…to writing an autobiography," in which he and Alice, his "beautiful sister," appear as twin "monsters." They have six fingers on each hand and are so ugly their super-rich parents hide them in a mansion while they are growing up. They are "freaks" in being "happy all the time."
Only a Vonnegut autobiography starts out in a non-nuclear post-apocalyptic world, with Kurt as Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain holding the defunct title of President of the United States. The subtitle of the book is the campaign slogan Dr. Swain used to win the presidency: Lonesome No More! As for the title of the book, it came from Alice, who, in Kurt's prologue to the story, referred to "her own impending death" at the age of 41 with four young boys as "slapstick."
The autobiography apparently is Kurt's response to the destiny that he, his brother and sister "were interchangeable parts in the American machine." Most, if not all, readers can relate to this view of life in America, hence the autobiography, as zany and weird as it is, becomes universal.
Wilbur's twin monster is named Eliza. Together they form a "genius" that takes "great intuitive leaping." This affinity opens up the story to their insights on the Constitution and Darwin's Theory of Evolution. This short section in the book is a gem.
Here's a sample of what else you'll find in Vonnegut's imaginative autobiography:
—miniaturized Chinese, who know the secret to traveling to Mars and may be responsible for the sudden surges in Earth-bound gravity that have reduced the population of standing buildings and bridges. (As for the human population, it was reduced by a bad case of the flu.)
—a paranoid psychologist
—the Island of Death
—tiny green pills that promote good deportment
—the few women the narrator (Wilbur Swain) "failed to love." ("Swain" with a small "s" is defined as a man who is a lover of a girl or young woman; when Wilbur was 70 years old, the wife he had then was 23.)
—The Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped
—the King of Michigan
—many, many paragraphs followed by the tag "Hi ho." (Readers of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five will recall the frequent use of "So it goes.")
—an ending in German
If you want to know what the "Daffodil-11" in Wilbur's name means, you'll have to read the story. A lesson may be learned in solving this mystery.
Has to be one of my new favourite books. Kind of depressing, but in a hilarious and hopeful way...
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