Book blog

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

“Open your eyes!” said Trout bitterly. “Do I look like a dancer, a singer, a man of joy?” He was wearing his tuxedo now. It was a size too large for him. He had lost much weight since high school. His pickets were crammed with mothballs. They bulged like saddlebags.

At the darkened bar of a Holiday Inn in Midland City, also known as the “asshole of the Universe”, sits Dwayne Hoover. He’s completely insane but is trying his best to hide it. Next to him sits Kilgore Trout, the intrepid hero of this Vonnegut tale who will push Hoover over the edge. And near them, wearing sunglasses with trifocal mirrored lenses that he hopes will disguise him from the world, is both men’s creator – Kurt Vonnegut himself.

The fourth wall has crumbled many times before and after Vonnegut’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ was published, but never in quite such a manner. For one, Vonnegut is quite nervous to meet Trout in person for the first time because he was the one human he had created that had sufficient imagination to guess that perhaps he was a character created by someone else. There was no mind-numbing existential question. The author sought the character out because let’s face it, he wants to know what happens as much as the rest of us.

Secondly, even though novel-Vonnegut knows exactly what’s going to happen, in this tale he’s hardly omnipotent. He may have put things in motion, but he’s not sure exactly what is in store for his characters – which is how he ends up with a broken pair of glasses and a broken toe. He’s a rather apologetic god, vanishing into the void when things get too complicated, avoiding eye contact by creating new characters to interact with anyone noticing him, and continuously popping anxiety pills.

On the anniversary of Vonnegut’s death, there is no better way to celebrate his life than to read this book; his own tribute to his recurring failed sci-fi author character Kilgore Trout, who appears without fail in every one of his books.

In ‘Breakfast of Champions’, Vonnegut puts him through hell as soon as he finishes dusting off his mothball suit to go to a literary festival in the mid-West.

After Mr Rosewater (another beloved character, see ‘God Bless you Mr Rosewater’ for more) writes to him to say that he is a brilliant author, Trout immediately assumes he’s a teenager rather than a multi-millionaire businessman who just happens to love his books enough to own a private collection.

But when his invitation to go to the literary festival arrives, Trout decides to make a political statement. Searching for his published work (which only appeared published in porno magazines) he hits the road, hitchhiking along the way with some very odd truck drivers, waking up in a ditch after being mugged and having to walk through a polluted river.

“You are pooped and demoralised,” read Dwayne. “Why wouldn’t you be? Of course it is exhausting, having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn’t meant to be reasonable.”

He could have never imagined (though Vonnegut did) that one of his stories would be read by a madman and believed immediately. Trout’s story about the Creator’s letter to its only creation, explaining that everyone else in the world is a robot and that it’s only him that is real was exactly what Hoover needed to explain his current predicament.

Master of the hyperbole, Vonnegut will always leave the reader guessing. And that’s just how we like it.

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/201676889532685141/

 

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Book blog

1000 before 30 #51: Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

Phwoar.

When I picked this up I didn’t expect a rush.

[Slight spoiler alert]

A man is holding a loaded gun, cocked and ready to blow inside his own mouth at the top of a high rise building block.

How does he get there? Well it all starts with the unnamed protagonist’s doctor claiming that insomnia isn’t such a serious thing.
I mean, so what if the only way you can sleep is to take airplanes to random destinations because the altitude helps your brain to relax?

So the man decides to attend several support groups for the terminally ill. It looks like he’s found his new high, but then this woman keeps on appearing in all of the sessions too. She was a fraud, just like him, and frankly was harshing his buzz. When she attended the testicular cancer support group, he decided to confront her. And that’s how he meets Marla.

But the main protagonist isn’t totally alone. In fact, he has a best friend, ex projectionist and overall sociopath Tyler Durden, who is better than him in any way. With him comes fight club, a ‘fuck you’ response to everything that society has constructed – a way to feel something real in a world filled with ties, suits and lies.

But as more people become obsessed with fight club (and its rules) things spiral out of control. Will he be able to stop Tyler?

The book asks the question – should you be afraid of yourself – In an internal Frankenstein-like debate.

My favourite bit of the whole book has to be when the men decide to use Marla’s mother’s body fat – which she has allegedly been sucking out to save for other parts of her body – to make soap that they plan to sell. Marla comes into the apartment to see what the men had done and starts screaming about them ‘making her mother into soap’. And that’s not even close to the most absurd thing in the book.

Let’s just say this is one of those times that even though the film was excellent, the book was something marvellous. I understand the hype, I understand the impact.

This book is part of my 1000 before 30 book challenge. Read more about it by scrolling all over the site! Recommendations are always welcome.

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Book blog

Six books I have to read right now.

Sometimes you walk past a shelf and realise that you just have to have a certain book.  These are the contenders that have been added to my 1000 before 30 list before August is up! Also worth a mention that I read three of The Walking Dead series over this week, which of course aren’t featured here but deserve a mention.

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Howard Fast’s The Edge of Tomorrow was a find at the Waterstone’s opposite UCL in Central London. They were selling a vintage, battered copy that needed a home. I am almost all the way through it, so it should appear on the list soon!

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole has been on my wishlist for quite some time, as an amusing classic I could never get my hands on when looking for a good read.

Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls is one that I’m aware I should have read a long time ago – but am finally going for here.

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Does my wanting to read this need any explanation whatsoever?

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev was an impulse buy. I have read quite a bit from Dostoievsky, Tolstoy and even Checkhov, but nothing by Turgenev. Hopefully this will prove to be an interesting expansion on my knowledge of Russian literature.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recommended by a colleague as one of the best things she has read recently – I couldn’t resist the rave reviews!

On that note, as I expand my bookshelves and decrease the amount of money in my wallet through this 1000 before 30 process, I am looking for good book recommendations to add to the future list. If you have any that you think I should read, give me a shout!

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1000 before 30 #25: The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

‘The Luminaries’ is kind of like when a very drunk person at a pub decides to tell you a very detailed story, only to start at the middle, get confused, tell you a lot of shit you didn’t want to know and is entirely irrelevant, and then condense the interesting ending into three paragraphs.

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1000 books before 30 #22: Life of Pi – Yann Martel

There are very few books that live up to their hype. ‘Life of Pi’ is one of them. Essentially its main character Pi (short for Piscine) is in such a desperate castaway situation that, if swapping tales with Robinson Crusoe, the latter would probably hang his head and admit that life on his island wasn’t so bad.

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1000 before 30 #21: The Buddha in the attic – Julie Otsuka

This is the story of hundreds women who leave their native Japan to meet their new husbands in America. The only thing they know is what they look like, thanks to grainy portraits they were sent beforehand. They all speak as one narrative, with voices intertwining and telling tales of hope, desperation, disappointment and love found in their new world.

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