cover image Timequake


Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.. Putnam, $23.95 (219pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13737-2

Its publisher calls this Vonnegut's ""first full-length work of fiction in seven years"" (since the novel Hocus Pocus), which seems like a polite way to avoid claiming it as a novel. It's certainly not that, nor is it, strictly speaking, a collection of stories. It is, rather, a good-natured and delightful ramble around the problem of not being able to get a book to work. Using his science-fictional alter ego Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut talks about a recalcitrant book of Trout's whose premise would have been that ""a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum'' occurs, creating a 10-year hitch in time in which everyone is forced to live that period of their lives over again, every word and action exactly repeated, from 1991 until 2001, at which point their lives move forward once more. It is a nice conceit, and Vonnegut and Trout have some fun with it, all interwoven with anecdotes about the Vonnegut family, how it feels to be an aging author and suchlike. There are plenty of Vonnegut gems for the taking (he and William Styron agree at one point that only 17% of people in the world have lives worth living), but the effect of the book is more like a relaxed, jokey conversation than anything else. Call it a patchwork of brief, semi-fictional essays; no matter, Vonnegut is always good company. (Sept.)