Read Puşcăriaşul by Kurt Vonnegut Online


Walter F. Starbuck ar fi putut deveni întruchiparea visului american. Fiu al unor imigranţi săraci care au renunţat la numele est-european Stankiewicz, greu de pronunţat, tânărul a beneficiat de ajutorul unui mare industriaş, care i-a plătit studiile la Harvard. Însă viaţa lui Walter este plină de răsturnări de situaţie şi de paradoxuri, astfel că la senectute acesta se prWalter F. Starbuck ar fi putut deveni întruchiparea visului american. Fiu al unor imigranţi săraci care au renunţat la numele est-european Stankiewicz, greu de pronunţat, tânărul a beneficiat de ajutorul unui mare industriaş, care i-a plătit studiile la Harvard. Însă viaţa lui Walter este plină de răsturnări de situaţie şi de paradoxuri, astfel că la senectute acesta se pregăteşte să intre la închisoare. Nu e prima lui condamnare. Walter, mărunt oficial guvernamental, a mai stat în puşcărie şi după scandalul Watergate. Numai că, la scurt timp după eliberare, viaţa îi rezervă o surpriză: o reîntâlneşte pe Mary Kathleen, o iubită din tinereţe, care, deşi fără adăpost şi locuind în subteranele New Yorkului, conduce din umbră omnipotenta şi omniprezenta companie RAMJAC. Iar după moartea ei, Walter, legatar universal al lui Mary Kathleen, va da frâu liber viselor idealiste de demult. Vise pentru care lumea nu e pregătită şi pentru care Walter va trebui până la urmă să plătească......

Title : Puşcăriaşul
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789736893285
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Puşcăriaşul Reviews

  • Lyn
    2018-10-18 11:07

    Not one of the better known Vonnegut novels, and significantly different than most of his other collection. This is perhaps his most serious work.Jailbird lacks the absurdist bent characterized by so much of his other satire, and is conspicuously somber throughout most of the book, though it still features Vonnegut’s fast style and light approach. This might also be his most politically dogmatic work, eschewing his ubiquitous humor and playful wisdom with a staid, thoughtful passion for rights needing to be championed.All the same, he tackles some heavy subjects and embraces the themes with a mature, though still wry humor.

  • Darwin8u
    2018-10-08 04:54

    “I was making my mind as blank as possible, you see, since the past was so embarrassing and the future so terrifying.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, JailbirdSometimes, I'm not sure if we are running recklessly toward a Philip K Dick future or a Kurt Vonnegut future. Sometimes, it sure seems like a bit of both. Both authors like to play with ideas of fascism. I think part of the draw, for me, of these two authors right now is how they sensed (Vonnegut especially in this book) the absolute absurdity and reality of economic greed, political malfeasance, incompetence, power, and the inability of the huddled, socialist masses to make much of a damn bit of difference.Part of Vonnegut's appeal is his everyman's view of things. He doesn't write his books from some ivory tower. His perch seems to be closer to a cranky uncle on a beat up couch, with cigarette burns in his pants, gravy on his shirt, and a wink in his eye.This is the second book I've read after challenging, bribing my 15-year-old son to read some of my Vonnegut paperbacks. I'm now two books into my own Vonnegut revisit. I just ordered LOA's The Complete Novels 4C BOX SET. Peace.

  • Clare
    2018-10-07 08:52

    I could never choose a favorite Vonnegut book, but when he died recently it was Jailbird I picked up to reread and feel his humanism and his compassion for all of flawed mankind. To me the underlying theme of Vonnegut's work is the importance of fundamental kindness. Even when Vonnegut it as his most negative about a situation, his conviction that compassion and generosity would be enough to fix whatever problem he's dwelling on shines through. His disappointment that this approach is all too seldom used is the root of his cynicism but it is never disheartening to read because of that glimpse of childlike hope that we really could learn to be kind to one another.

  • Ian
    2018-10-18 11:45

    Happy Peaceful JailbirdsThis is a curious novel. For the first 11 chapters (170 pages), it read like an autobiography (of a former journalist and Harvard graduate become adviser on youth affairs in Richard Nixon’s administration). Only in the 13 chapters (136 pages) that followed did it take on the familiar comic absurdist style of social commentary for which Vonnegut is better known.Love of LabourThe novel is a critique of private enterprise, capitalism and the labour relations that are imposed on workers by both small employers and large corporations (such as RAMJAC Corporation, a highly acquisitive conglomerate that owns 19% of the American economy, the ownership of which is eventually gifted to the US government, on behalf of the American people, on the death of the sole remaining shareholder, Mrs Jack Graham):“[Most of] the businesses of RAMJAC, rigged only to make profits, were as indifferent to the needs of the people as, say, thunderstorms...Some joke on the people, to give them such a thing.”The business people in the novel are largely corrupt Republican politicians, lackeys, crooks, mobsters and criminals (or is that a tautology?). The narrator, Walter F. Starbuck, is now a 66 year old grandfather “who, when all is said and done, was a clean and dapper and kindly old man”, but was once a Communist until the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin. While benign in nature, he ends up in prison twice during the novel: the first time as “the oldest and least celebrated of the Watergate co-conspirators”, and the second time on a highly technical charge of unlawfully concealing the will of Mrs Jack Graham.The sympathetic and sentimental approach to the history of American labour relations (e.g., the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti) reminded me a lot of Thomas Pynchon’s “Vineland” and “Bleeding Edge”, though written before and set midway between the two novels.Kilgore Trout features as the pseudonym of one of Walter’s fellow prisoners, who spends his time in jail writing science fiction stories and novels (including a story set on the planet, Vicuna - see the poem below).American DreamsThe tone of the novel gravitates towards a sentimental, dream-like humanism, even when contrasted to the blind faith of the American people (and their corrupt politicians) in the miraculous potential of the invisible hand of capitalism.It forced me to contemplate whether (and hope that) the Trump administration would end up matching the record of the Nixon administration in filling American jails out of its own number.Ting-a-Ling (Hello/Goodbye)[Vicuna Song Dedicated to Kilgore Trout](This poem is constructed out of interstitial words and phrases used by Kurt Vonnegut throughout the novel.)Times change.Live and learn.Small world.Strong stuff.Too bad.Time passed.Nature sympathised.Life goes on.And on and on.That's life.So be it.Fair is fair.Peace.SOUNDTRACK:(view spoiler)[The Beatles- “Hello, Goodbye” Zappa - Occam’s Razor” (an almost xenochronic extract from a live version of "Inca Roads") (hide spoiler)]

  • Vit Babenco
    2018-10-11 03:52

    “Coming right at me was the husk of the man who had stolen Sarah Wyatt from me, the man I had ruined back in Nineteen-hundred and Forty-nine. He had not seen me yet. He was Leland Clewes!He had lost all his hair, and his feet were capsizing in broken shoes, and the cuffs of his trousers were frayed, and his right arm appeared to have died. Dangling at the end of it was a battered sample case. Clewes had become an unsuccessful salesman, as I would find out later, of advertising matchbooks and calendars.”Fortune surely plays games with human beings and it played a wicked joke on the main hero of this novel – it turned him into a Jailbird“My official title in the Nixon White House, the job I was holding when I was arrested for embezzlement, perjury, and obstruction of justice, was this: the President's special advisor on youth affairs. I was paid thirty-six thousand dollars a year. I had an office, but no secretary, in the subbasement of the Executive Office Building, directly underneath, as it happened, the office where burglaries and other crimes on behalf of President Nixon were planned. I could hear people walking overhead and raising their voices sometimes. On my own level in the subbasement my only companions were heating and air-conditioning equipment and a Coca-Cola machine that only I knew about, I think. I was the only person to patronize that machine.Yes, and I read college and high-school newspapers and magazines, and Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy, and anything else that claimed to speak for youth. I catalogued political statements in the words of popular songs. My chief qualification for the job, I thought, was that I myself had been a radical at Harvard, starting in my junior year. Nor had I been a dabbler, a mere parlor pink. I had been cochairman of the Harvard chapter of the Young Communist League. I had been cochairman of a radical weekly paper, The Bay State Progressive. I was in fact, openly and proudly, a card-carrying communist until Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact in Nineteen-hundred and Thirty-nine. Hell and heaven, as I saw it, were making common cause against weakly defended peoples everywhere. After that I became a cautious believer in capitalistic democracy again.”But political games are even dirtier than those the fortune is capable of playing.

  • Scott Stevenson
    2018-09-21 05:44

    The author does not want you to know this but Goodreads has just been purchased by the RAMJAC Corporation.

  • Dan
    2018-09-21 05:04

    I began reading this book just after finishing Anna Karenina and I am glad I did. It was essentially everything Anna Karenina was not (in a good way).The prose was classic Vonnegut, light, fast paced and strangely hilarious. I look at Vonnegut as many look upon their grandfathers. There are the same corny jokes you've come to expect and despite their corniness you can't help but laugh and be pleased with them.Jailbird was particularly interesting and at the same time confusing for me. The tale gets wrapped up in just as many historical events as it does fictional and there is also the mention and inclusion of many notable figures from the past 100 or so years.In the end it doesn't matter where fact and fiction cross or where they diverge. The book was fun and seemingly lighthearted and like Vonnegut always does he make some serious points.Here is a quote, that given our current economic crisis seems perfect:"The economy is a thoughtless weather system-- and nothing more. Some joke on the people, to give them such a thing."I think we are slowly realizing that we are the butt of this joke

  • Ben Babcock
    2018-09-18 06:45

    One of the central conceits of Jailbird is that the RAMJAC corporation seems to own everything, and it is owned by Mrs. Jack Graham, a reclusive woman whom few people have met in person and who gives orders by telephone, confirming them by mailing a letter to her subordinates signed by fingerprints from both hands. That’s weird, right?Problem is, this is a Vonnegut novel, so it’s not nearly weird enough.Walter F. Starbuck is a Harvard man, a minor public servant who does time in a white-collar prison for tangential involvement in Watergate. The story begins with Walter’s release; most of his earlier life is told as a series of flashbacks, with Walter meditating upon and foreshadowing various formative events. Having lived through much of the twentieth century, Walter is the world-weary proxy for the author, able to use his decades of experience in the public service to demonstrate how, no matter what happens, this is life. So it goes, eh? As the story goes on, Vonnegut introduces any number of improbably named supporting cast members, dipping into their lives to various degrees, and connecting them in ways both unlikely and realistically serendipitous.In these respects, Jailbird is typical Vonnegut fare, and for the first half or so, I was quite enjoying it. Despite the setbacks dealt to him, Walter was remarkably mellow. He goes through his life almost as if he can’t believe anyone is bothering to interact with him. So many protagonists of stories are heroes: they are often the most important or become one of the most important people in the story’s setting. Vonnegut seems to have set out to demonstrate that it’s possible to tell a good story about someone who isn’t a hero, isn’t an antihero, isn’t anything. He’s just some guy, you know? He hasn’t made much of a big difference doing anything in his life. But he’s OK with that.Somewhere towards the back half, though, I began to check out. The novel starts to take weird twists and the plot begins to spiral outwards at an accelerated pace rather than in the tight, constant coils of the earlier part of the book. I wasn’t sure what was going on—but in the head-scratching, unable to enjoy myself kind of way, as opposed to the usual Escher-like constructions Vonnegut springs upon the reader.Some of this is a personal issue: I’m just not that interested in Watergate or its fallout. It’s difficult for me, as a child of this era, to relate to that particular part of the twentieth century. I feel strange saying that, because I have no problem enjoying the myriad stories set in World War II, which is surely a world much more different from mine than America during Watergate. But I studied World War II in school, and its presence in our culture far overshadows that of Watergate. Moreover, in today’s accelerated news cycle coupled with unprecedented access to information, it seems like a new scandal rears its head every second day. Keeping up with the illegal activities President of the United States and his advisers was exciting in the 1970s. Now it’s just another exhausting facet of your unpaid Internet labour.Another disappointment peculiar to my tastes and preferences is the dearth of science fictional elements. That’s not an automatic failure—Bluebeard similarly lacks science fiction, and I still loved it. No, just my mood in general at the time was hoping for more zany and unforgettable pulp sci-fi on the order of The Sirens of Titan. Oh well.I will say this: I like the subtle way in which Vonnegut critiques both capitalism and communism here. Whenever we discuss critiques of communism in fiction, Orwell always dominates. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm as much as the next self-respecting English student, and Orwell’s corpus of anti-authoritarianist literature is amazing. Yet there is so much more to be said and so many other people saying it.Latent in Jailbird seems to be the premise that World War II really fucked everything up in terms of capitalism versus communism in a way that few people anticipated. Though its cost in terms of lives was staggering and atrocious, it did jumpstart the economies of Europe and America, even as it triggered the long slide of Russian communism towards its eventual collapse. But the social changes that accompanied the absence of young men from the workforce and the general fatigue with fighting that followed the war really altered the way in which people thought about work and acquiring profit.(Oh, and having the ability to destroy all life on the planet with a few bombs also changed things.)Vonnegut is clever in the way he connects the Watergate-era politics of Walter’s career with Walter’s earlier efforts in post-war Germany. He illustrates how the decisions made following the war have influenced the rise of various corporate interests, a process that has continued towards a concerning climax in my time. The RAMJAC corporation lurks in the background of the first part of Jailbird: it keeps coming up, but no one ever discusses what it is or why it seems to own everything. (And I like at the end how Vonnegut reveals that it doesn’t actually own that much—perception can be far more powerful than fact.) That RAMJAC is more of a trojan horse than anything is fun, though I wish Vonnegut had played with the idea more instead of just stating it flat out towards the end.I’m happy I read Jailbird, and I wouldn’t rule out revisiting it at some point in the future—I might like it better then! That being said, there are plenty of other Vonnegut novels to read, or ones I’d rather re-read first, so that won’t be a priority. It just lacks the volume of satire and humour I want from my Vonnegut, preferring instead elements of pure farce, which don’t satisfy me quite so much. Though still eminently Vonnegut in voice and style, it is not the an exemplar of his work.

  • notgettingenough
    2018-10-14 05:07

    It strikes me, not for the first time whilst reading Vonnegut that writers can be divided into two camps. The ones who have to work to include that smart-arse-clever line/sentence/phrase they jotted down somewhere, sometime and really really need to get in. Who was it who said that the more you like something you've written down, the more likely it is that you should take it out? And the ones who, even if what they say hits you with a jolt - and Vonnegut's lines often do that - they nonetheless fit in. They aren't forced, they naturally belong just there where the reader sets upon them. There is a hilarious Kilgore Trout story about Einstein trying to get into heaven in Jailbird. He goes through an audit first and then:Rest here: http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...

  • Petergiaquinta
    2018-09-19 10:58

    I don't mind so much the Republicans who embrace greed and general douche-baggery.But it's those Republicans who cloak themselves in smug, moral self-righteousness, the ones who invoke God and think somehow Jesus would be on board with their selfish hypocrisy, that really annoy me.In the intro to Jailbird, Vonnegut refers to a letter he had recently received from a high-school reader who told Vonnegut he had read almost everything by him and wanted to share the single idea he found at the core of Vonnegut's life work: "Love may fail, but courtesy will prevail." And he's right; that's the message at the heart of everything Vonnegut has written, including his recently published Letters. This most human and humane of authors who was an atheist and whose books have been burned by these same smug, sanctimonious conservative nutjobs has a better handle than they do on the gospel of Christ which, ironically enough, is the same message you'll find in those books that were burned.In the intro as well, Vonnegut relates a lunch he had as a young man still in uniform, recently back in the U.S. after WWII. The lunch was at a restaurant in Indianapolis with his uncle and father and a labor organizer named Powers Hapgood, who had attended Harvard with Vonnegut's uncle, who was politically rather conservative. Vonnegut had told his uncle that he was interested in a labor union job and instead of discouraging him, his uncle had arranged the lunch with his Harvard classmate. Hapgood had a colorful history; he had been jailed many times for his union activities, had led pickets at the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, and in fact had just come to the restaurant after a morning of testifying in court about a labor case. The judge had asked him why a Harvard man like himself from a distinguished Indianapolis family had chosen to live the life he did. He told the judge, "Why? Because of the Sermon on the Mount, sir."And I like that.So I picked up Jailbird and just read it again, a book I first read maybe back in 1980 shortly after it was published, when I was the age of that fan who wrote Vonnegut the letter about the message at the core of his books. Having just finished Kurt Vonnegut's Letters, I remembered Jailbird as one of my least favorite Vonnegut books, and I wondered if maybe I had been too young to appreciate it at the time. I could barely remember Jailbird; I knew there was a bag lady and references to unions, but that was about it. Jailbird certainly hadn't become a part of my larger cultural consciousness, the way Cat's Cradle or SH-5 had. I had forgotten the title refers to the least significant of the Watergate conspirators, one Walter F. Starbuck, or that Kilgore Trout plays a minor role in this novel, too, as one of Starbuck's fellow prisoners in the minimum security facility in Georgia where Starbuck is being released after serving his sentence. I had forgotten that Roy Cohn even makes a cameo appearance. In fact, I had forgotten almost everything about this novel, except for the sense that I didn't really like it that much the first time, and so I'm glad I gave it a re-read.I'm leaving my initial 3-star rating up there, although I'd be tempted to give the re-read 4 stars today. And I'm sure I enjoyed the book much more now than my 16-year-old self did, being older and wiser and more compassionate now that I'm almost 50, as well as a dues-paying member of a union. But it isn't as good as those earlier works by Vonnegut, and its message of treating others with kindness and civility probably comes across better in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.Still, I'm a better person for re-reading it, and the recent anti-labor movements in places like Wisconsin and Michigan make Vonnegut's concerns in this novel all the more relevant today. And my copy of the novel has a photograph on the back of the dust jacket of Vonnegut sitting on the edge of a bed looking out the window and talking on the phone, wearing a stocking cap and smoking what I assume is a Pall Mall. On the window sill is a plate filled with smoked-out stubs. And I like that too.

  • Zoeytron
    2018-10-19 04:54

    This was my first foray into Kurt Vonnegut territory, and I expected to have stronger feelings one way or another about his work. Instead, I was mildly pleased when the book was finished and I could move on to something else. It is plain to see that there is a host of individuals out there who regard Vonnegut as an icon, and I will not presume to gainsay them. He simply did not strike a chord with me.Perhaps if I had read a book or two of his in my younger days, or chosen a different title for my first Vonnegut reading? Unknown, but having read this one, there was simply nothing that makes me want to try another. And that is slightly disappointing.

  • Steven
    2018-10-06 08:39

    "While I was a student, I sometimes caught the whiff of a promise that, after I graduated, I would be better than average at explaining important matters to people who were slow at catching on. Things did not work out that way." (46)The last book by Vonnegut that I read, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, left me rather cold—this one, Jailbird, was much better. In fact, I'd say it's up there with his best.

  • Andris
    2018-10-15 07:02

    Klasisks Vonnegūts, absurds un ļoti labs. Un Kilgora Trauta sci-fi stāstiņi.

  • Descending Angel
    2018-10-12 03:53

    Maybe Vonnegut's most political work, dealing with the Watergate scandal, attacking capitalism and communism and having a more serious approach to it even though it is still unmistakably Vonnegut. I wouldn't call this one of his top books, I would place quite a few above it, but it still is a fast paced and amusing joyride which only Vonnegut could write.

  • Simon
    2018-09-29 03:42

    Kurt Vonnegut's characters and plotlines are the literary equivalent of 'that's just how it be on this bitch of an earth' and I love it.

  • Katie
    2018-09-27 10:02

    Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors, and he has yet to let me down. Other readers are correct in the pacing of this book - it moves along a bit slower than other Vonnegut novels, but this was probably intentional with the author constantly referencing what a sad, old, fragile man he had become. I can't think of a single time that I've witnessed a fragile old man rushing through his story.There were several things that made me fall in love with this story, which actually not my standard favorite things about Vonnegut novels. This novel absolutely struck me with the kindness and true forgiveness between the characters (this is also what made me fall in love with Les Miserables). I was absolutely struck with the scene where Starbuck and Clewes reunited: the former initially fleeing with fear of what the man he ruined might say or do to him, and the latter fully forgiving Starbuck as if he had never held any animosity towards him. He didn't forgive him in the way that we often see and practice today: he wiped the slate clean, wanting to befriend him again, he held no grudge. To me, this was absolutely beautiful - I had to read it a couple of times before I could move forward. The protagonist, Walter, also struck me with his ability throughout the story to hold no grudge. One particular scene in the beginning stuck out to me quite a bit:"That's what you say about everything," Clyde complained. "No matter what it is, you say, 'It's all right.'" "It usually is," I said." Again, this theme throughout the book was just beautiful to me. Some of my favorite things with Vonnegut's writing shone brilliantly through his writing, yet again. Of course, I can't imagine that his great (and often unexpected) sense of humor could ever be left from one of his books. I could not stop laughing after Walter was released from prison without his shoes, but refused to go back for them because of his fear that he would be re-arrested for putting a bowling trophy in a pile of his own feces. I also loved the intricacy of the story, and the amazing coincidences that caused all of the pieces of the story to fall together just so.In short: yep, I loved it!

  • Kyle
    2018-09-18 12:02

    First I have to say that Mr. Vonnegut is amazing, so I'm a bit biased. If you REALLY want to start reading all of Mr. Vonnegut's books (which you should want to do) please don't start with this book. But then again Jailbird is much more straightforward in its story line then some of his other books so it might be a bit more accessible. I like how Mr. Vonnegut's writing skips around and truly makes no sense until about half way through when it starts to slowly come together. Jailbird is not like that, but it kind of is. He drops some hints here and there about the ending (foreshadowing would you call it?), but you know they're hints if you've read any of his other works.I will say that Jailbird does demonstrate Mr. Vonnegut's writing abilities. Jailbird kind of combines his skipping around style with a more straight line style (a la Player Piano). Yet through it all you can still hear Mr. Vonnegut's unique voice. So I would suggest Jailbird to anyone who has read a few other of Mr. Vonnegut's books, but not as your first. I would give you a synopsis of what happens, but that would be entirely too hard to do for a book by Mr. Vonnegut and I would only end up telling you the whole story. So it goes.

  • B
    2018-09-18 05:08

    I found this book in my bathroom and decided to read it. It was left there by a guest who was probably pooping when he was reading it. That's OK with me. About a third of the way through the book, Walter F. Starbuck, the hero (though he would probably prefer we not call him that), finds a paperback book in a bathroom stall at an airport and decides to read it. I about fell off my chair. When I was a senior in high school, I was introduced to Vonnegut and proceeded to read everything the man had ever written and would ever write. I'm glad to be reintroduced to him at this phase in my life though I'm not convinced Jailbird was the best book to do it (besides having come across it in my bathroom). I did relearn a bunch about Sacco and Vanzetti though, so that was nice? I'm also going to be a bit kinder to grocery bag ladies on the street. This book does have some of my favorite dying words ever though:"It's all right," she said, "You couldn't help it that you were born without a heart. At least you tried to believe what people with hearts believed - so you were a good man just the same."

  • Kristen
    2018-10-12 08:01

    Maybe this really deserves four stars, I just can't tell anymore. For me, Of Human Bondage set the bar so high it's now unreachable and most likely all the ratings I've given since have suffered accordingly. What did I learn from this book? Apparently that whole Sacco and Vanzetti thing was as important as that graphic novel I read about the wobblies said, it must have been because Vonnegut constantly references it throughout the book, according to the index at least a dozen times. Who puts an index in a fictional novel? Anyways just your typical Vonnegut dark humor, fun but still far more insightful than most people often give him credit for. On a related note: While reading a previous Vonnegut novel, my coworker picked it up and reading the back-cover where it describes the author as "known for his black humor" he says to me: "I didn't know Kurt Vonnegut was black."

  • MJ Nicholls
    2018-09-28 07:54

    Jailbird is a quintessentially Vonnegutian tale of rich-man guilt and the futility of capitalist America.The story is most effective when dealing with Walter's love interests. Vonnegut captures the intensity and importance of relationships like no other writer, by stretching them throughout life, showing how love endures more than money or career success. He does this, of course, with dollops of sentimental irony.I think "sentimental ironist" isn't a bad summation of Vonnegut's style, though his books always have a unique theme or thread running through them.

  • Noran Miss Pumkin
    2018-09-24 09:43

    i know the the teenager the author mentions in the preface of the book or is it the intro. many i guess think he does not exist, but he does. the author even sent him a leather bound edition of this tome autographed. the book, will like most the this author's works--not my taste. some like this type of pizza, i do not.

  • Charlie Weiss
    2018-10-18 08:46

    I have officially given up on choosing a favorite Vonnegut. They're all amazing, which is why I'm reading every last one. Though I was a bit thrown off with this one, firstly because I thought Kilgore Trout was real, not just a pseudonym of Dr Bob Fender. Secondly, the fact that most of the facts referenced in this book are true. Like Sacco and Vanzetti, and Watergate.Here's my favorite part of this one:And then I regaled myself with a story by my prison friend Dr. Robert Fender, which he had published under the name of “Kilgore Trout.” It was called “Asleep at the Switch.” It was about a huge reception center outside the Pearly Gates of heaven—filled with computers and staffed by people who had been certified public accountants or investment counselors or business managers back on Earth.You could not get into heaven until you had submitted to a full review of how well you had handled the business opportunities God, through His angels, had offered to you on Earth.All day long and in every cubicle you could hear the experts saying with utmost weariness to people who had missed this opportunity and then that one: “And there you were, asleep at the switch again.”How much time had I spent in solitary by then? I will make a guess: five minutes.“Asleep at the Switch” was quite a sacrilegious story. The hero was the ghost of Albert Einstein. He himself was so little interested in wealth that he scarcely heard what his auditor had to say to him. It was some sort of balderdash about how he could have become a billionaire, if only he had gotten a second mortgage on his house in Bern, Switzerland, in Nineteen-hundred and Five, and invested the money in known uranium deposits before telling the world that E=Mc².“But there you were—asleep at the switch again,” said the auditor.“Yes,” said Einstein politely, “it does seem rather typical.”“So you see,” said the auditor, “life really was quite fair. You did have a remarkable number of opportunities, whether you took them or not.”“Yes, I see that now,” said Einstein.“Would you mind saying that in so many words?” said the auditor.“That life was fair.”“Life was fair,” said Einstein.“If you don’t really mean it,” said the auditor, “I have many more examples to show you. For instance, just forgetting atomic energy: If you had simply taken the money you put into a savings bank when you were at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, and you had put it, starting in Nineteen-hundred and Fifty, say, into IBM and Polaroid and Xerox—even though you had only five more years to live—” The auditor raised his eyes suggestively, inviting Einstein to show how smart he could be.“I would have been rich?” said Einstein.“‘Comfortable,’ shall we say?” said the auditor smugly. “But there you were again—” And again his eyebrows went up.“Asleep at the switch?” asked Einstein hopefully.The auditor stood and extended his hand, which Einstein accepted unenthusiastically. “So you see, Doctor Einstein,” he said, “we can’t blame God for everything, now can we?” He handed Einstein his pass through the Pearly Gates. “Good to have you aboard,” he said.So into heaven Einstein went, carrying his beloved fiddle. He thought no more about the audit. He was a veteran of countless border crossings by then. There had always been senseless questions to answer, empty promises to make, meaningless documents to sign.But once inside heaven Einstein encountered ghost after ghost who was sick about what his or her audit had shown. One husband and wife team, which had committed suicide after losing everything in a chicken farm in New Hampshire, had been told that they had been living the whole time over the largest deposit of nickel in the world.A fourteen-year-old Harlem child who had been killed in a gang fight was told about a two-carat diamond ring that lay for weeks at the bottom of a catch basin he passed every day. It was flawless and had not been reported as stolen. If he had sold it for only a tenth of its value, four hundred dollars, say, according to his auditor, and speculated in commodities futures, especially in cocoa at that time, he could have moved his mother and sisters and himself into a Park Avenue condominium and sent himself to Andover and then to Harvard after that.There was Harvard again.All the auditing stories that Einstein heard were told by Americans. He had chosen to settle in the American part of heaven. Understandably, he had mixed feelings about Europeans, since he was a Jew. But it wasn’t only Americans who were being audited. Pakistanis and pygmies from the Philippines and even communists had to go through the very same thing.It was in character for Einstein to be offended first by the mathematics of the system the auditors wanted everybody to be so grateful for. He calculated that if every person on Earth took full advantage of every opportunity, became a millionaire and then a billionaire and so on, the paper wealth on that one little planet would exceed the worth of all the minerals in the universe in a matter of three months or so. Also: There would be nobody left to do any useful work.So he sent God a note. It assumed that God had no idea what sorts of rubbish His auditors were talking. It accused the auditors rather than God of cruelly deceiving new arrivals about the opportunities they had had on Earth. He tried to guess the auditors’ motives. He wondered if they might not be sadists.The story ended abruptly. Einstein did not get to see God. But God sent out an archangel who was boiling mad. He told Einstein that if he continued to destroy ghosts’ respect for the audits, he was going to take Einstein’s fiddle away from him for all eternity. So Einstein never discussed the audits with anybody ever again. His fiddle meant more to him than anything.Sorry about that. But if that doesn't make you want to read Vonnegut, nothing will.

  • Sanita
    2018-09-30 05:01

    Pasaule tiešām ir maza! Godīgi nopelnītas 5/5 zvaigznes.

  • Jeff Lacy
    2018-10-08 04:55

    About the haphazardness of power, economic and political, and the irony and folly of Walter F. Starbuck's life affected by it.I did not enjoy this story or it's characters, but it's Vonnegut. I recommend anything he writes.Revise: Aug 30, 2014: I have been thinking about this book since I finished it and wrote my review above. I have come to the conclusion that this book, perhaps more than most of Vonnegut's other novels works on a myriad of themes: friendship, success, failure, injustice, wrong conviction, prejudice, political internecine fighting, capitalism vs. other economic/political systems.If a book is making one think about it weeks after one has read it, then the book has made an indelible impact. Vonnegut above other authors I have read significantly, have not had the impact he has. There is so much commentary injected in every novel and every short story. His genius is that he doesn't shake and shout this message at you, but that the message, as I have experienced with Jailbird, is weaved seamlessly in the plot, and when one has a sense of the bigger theme, there is yet so much more behind the curtain that is making the circus run.

  • Trevor Denton
    2018-10-07 11:01

    Jailbird is all over the place in that great Vonnegut way. It's about an elderly man who is released from minimum security prison, where he was serving a sentence for white collar crimes he committed while inadvertently involving himself in the Watergate scandal.The book is a great collection of character interactions, as the protagonist reconnects with several people from his past life, as well as people in the new, dispassionate world in which he finds himself.Through the actions and thoughts of the characters, heavy criticism is made of American corporatism. Parts of the book are dedicated to recounting some of the history of the American labor industry. However, sharp criticisms are also made against communism and idealism.And, as usual, Vonnegut's writing style is one of the most entertaining and fulfilling things about this book."Strong stuff."

  • Curt
    2018-09-18 05:43

    Jailbird is a personal favorite of mine, which means that it ranks in the top 5 of Vonnegut's novels. Here we find Vonnegut at his most grounded and his most overtly political. These are, of course, relative terms for a writer as inventive and socially conscious as Kurt Vonnegut. He explores the absurdities of the American education system, socialism, corporate monopolies, class identification, and man's fundamental lack of compassion in the face of money or power. In Jailbird, as in all of his finest fiction, Vonnegut is charming and witty. His tone is conversational without sounding banal. He is doing what he does best, spinning modern fairy tales of human frailty.

  • Dave Allen
    2018-10-11 10:45

    Was waffling between 3 and 4 stars on this, but being a big fan of Vonnegut I went 4. The reason I hesitated is that this did not quite contain that whimsical Vonnegut-ness I am used to. This book was a little more straight forward and written as if it were a memoir penned by the main character. I think if I hadn't read so many of his other works and wasn't influenced by that, this would have been 4 or 5 stars. That said, like most of his works, definitely worth the read.

  • Erik Graff
    2018-10-18 04:58

    This is one of Vonnegut's more explicitly politically contemporary novels and one of his best--in his opinion as well as mine. I snuck it in just before starting the second semester at Loyola University Chicago.

  • Lukasz Pruski
    2018-10-05 05:39

    "She believed, and was entitled to believe, I must say, that all human beings were evil by nature, whether tormentors or victims, or idle standers-by. [...] We were a disease, she said, which had evolved on one tiny cinder in the universe, but could spread and spread."I am ambivalent about Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird (1979). On the one hand the author pushes many of my hot buttons and I agree with his choices of human failings to lampoon - human race as a disease affecting the universe is a brilliant metaphor - but on the other, the diagnoses and solutions he offers are way too simplistic and naive. There are some brilliant passages in the novel but many others are ridiculous, childish, or just plain silly.Jailbird can be divided into two, quite disjoint parts. The first is a memoir of one Walter F. Starbuck, the son of a Polish chauffeur and a Lithuanian cook working for an American millionaire. Thanks to his parents' employer's sponsorship Mr. Starbuck graduates from Harvard, but then - during the grim days of the Depression - he becomes a Communist. Much later he is interrogated by Richard Nixon himself during congressional committee hearings. The future president remembers him and Starbuck obtains a job in Nixon's White House, as a Special Advisor on Youth. He becomes one of the scapegoats in the Watergate affair and goes to prison. I find the first part realistic, almost "historical", and captivating. Vonnegut focuses on the issues of labor movement in the US. He writes:"Labor history was pornography of a sort in those days, and even more so in these days. In public schools and in the homes of nice people it was and remains pretty much taboo to tell tales of labor's sufferings and derring-do."One of the most dramatic fragments of the novel is the depiction of the fictitious Cuyahoga Massacre where the soldiers killed fourteen protesting workers of the Cuyahoga Bridge and Iron, wounded scores of others, and - the worst of all (sarcasm!) - caused serious stutter in Mr. Starbuck's future employer. Another dramatic fragment depicts the factual story of executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, anarchists convicted of murder, but guilty only of "dangerous radical activities."The novel's second, present-time part that begins on the day of Starbuck's release from prison is a sort of fantasy tale:"This is just the dream of a jailbird. It's not supposed to make sense."Here we encounter The RAMJAC Corporation that owns 19% of the entire wealth of the United States and the story focuses on Mr. Starbuck's connections with the mysterious Mrs. Graham who is the majority stockholder. I am not enthusiastic about that part of the novel, not only because I dislike fantasy in literature, but mainly because it dissolves the stronger message of the novel's "historical" part. Although I burst out laughing over the hilarious commentary on the average American level of literacy: Vonnegut writes about an invention needed in the times when "it was getting harder all the time to find employees who understood numbers well": images of products are put on the keys of a cash register rather than numbers.Vonnegut's trademark sarcastic view of humanity is made clear by the numerous references to the Sermon on the Mount, a collection of teachings attributed to Jesus Christ in which he predicts that the poor in spirit would receive the Kingdom of Heaven, the meek will inherit the Earth, that the merciful will be treated mercifully, and so on. I wonder why the author does not quote the most striking phrase from the Sermon: "You cannot serve God and wealth" because "no one can serve two masters." Would the author be not bold enough to say that capitalism and Christianity cannot coexist?Infuriatingly uneven work by the author of the great Slaughterhouse-Five . Here Vonnegut editorializes way too much and does not let the power of his fiction speak for itself. The beautiful passages about Starbuck's wife and his girlfriend virtually disappear buried deep in well-meant yet inept propaganda. Two and a half stars.

  • sologdin
    2018-10-18 06:55

    Prefaced with the well-known premise “against stupidity even the gods contend in vain” (xii), and notes thereafter that “labor history was pornography of a sort” in the early 20th century (xviii). Narrative arises out of a fictional moment of labor history, the fabricated “Cuyahoga Massacre” in Cleveland, 1894 (xxi). Narrator is raised by one of the industrialist villains who authored the massacre, and becomes a big commie, and later ends up in prison several times for stupid things, such as being a tertiary Watergate thug. That’s the story, I suppose—but one doesn’t read V for story, of course; it’s all about the observations along the way, such as: militias “represented an American ideal: healthy, cheerful, citizen soldiers” (xxvi), “utopian” (xxvii), but “worse than useless on battlefields” (id.). Narrator was “a radical at Harvard,” “cochairman of the Harvard chapter of the Young Communist League” (13) (that’s a Stalinist outfit, FYI). After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, however, “I became a cautious believer in capitalistic democracy again” (id.). Despite this, dude ends up as Nixon’s youth affairs advisor. He wrote many unread memos, all of which boiled down to: “Young people still refuse to see the obvious impossibility of world disarmament and economic equality” (15).V writes with a subtle rhetorical power, such as when he describes the post-war plans of narrator’s wife, a survivor of the Third Reich’s camps: “to roam alone and out-of-doors forever, from nowhere to nowhere in a demented sort of religious ecstasy. ‘No one ever touches me,’ she said, ‘and I never touch anyone. I am like a bird in flight. It is so beautiful. There is only God—and me’” (21). But in earthy contradiction with that ethereal image, “there was no movement or sound she made that was not at least accidentally flirtatious” (24).Dude gives his wife probably the best wedding gift of which I’ve ever heard: “a wood carving […] it depicted hands of an old person pressed together in prayer. It was a three-dimensional rendering of a drawing by Albrecht Durer” (28).Narrator is scolded for denouncing comrades to HUAAC with “The most important thing they teach at Harvard […] is that a man can obey every law and still be the worst criminal of his time” (75).Definitions, V-style: twerp = “a person, if I may be forgiven, who bit the bubbles of his own farts in the bathtub” (110); jerk = “a person who masturbated too much” (id.). Narrator notes the “tens of thousands of [shopping bag ladies]” loose in the US, “ragged regiments of them,” produced accidentally, and to no imaginable purpose, by the great engine of the economy. Another part of the machine was spitting out unrepentant murderers ten years old, and dope fiends and child batterers and many other bad things. (140) Reasonable persons were “As sick about all these tragic by-products of the economy as they would have been about human slavery” (id). Overall, as normal for V: committed, witty, smart. Most bizarre thing is that the novel has an index. The hell?Recommended for irony collectors, fanatical monks in the service of war, persons baptized Roman Catholic but who aspire to indifference, and readers who are pure phlogiston.