When Walter F. Starbuck, the least celebrated of the Watergate conspirators, is freed from jail after two years, his first 24 hours of freedom take shape with the unforeseen turns of fortune and moral innuendo of an urban fairytale. The author's other novels include "Slaughterhouse 5".
About the Author
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and studied biochemistry at Cornell University. During WWII, as a prisoner of war in Germany, he witnessed the destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers, an experience which inspired his novel SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE.
No one can make America into childlike myth like Vonnegut can. Here he takes capitalism, labor history, Sacco-Vanzetti, McCarthyism, and Watergate, and puts them all into the slender memoirs of Walter F. Starbuck - a chauffeur's son who was mentored by the scion of a great and ruthless corporation, was sent to Harvard, but was abandoned when he was caught dabbling in the 1930s left-wing; which meant that Walter had to make his own way as a WW II soldier, Washington civil servant, unintentional stoolie in a Hiss/Chambers-type case, unemployed husband (his concentration-camp-survivor wife supported them with interior decorating), and finally Nixon's token "advisor for youth affairs" and a very minor Watergate convict. So now old Walter is getting out of minimum-security prison (where he has met Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout), without a friend in the world - his wife is dead and his son is "a very unpleasant person. . . a book reviewer for The New York Times" - and with hopes of becoming a bartender somewhere in Manhattan. All this is told in Vonnegut's customary fatless, detail-rich, musical prose (with the usual ironic asides: "And on and on," "Peace," "Strong stuff"), and it's strangely touching, occasionally boldly funny. But as good as he is at building a haunted, hilariously compressed myth out of our shared past, Vonnegut can't keep it from collapsing into silliness when he tries to propel it into the future; Walter's post-prison adventures are so fairy-tale-ish and theme-heavy that they lose that precariously balanced aura of truer-than-true. Once in Manhattan, he meets the major people from his past in one coincidence after another, including his old flame and fellow left-winger Mary Kathleen O'Looney, who is now a N.Y. shopping-bag lady living beneath Grand Central Station - but is she really a bag lady? No! She's really "the legendary Mrs. Jack Graham," neverseen majority stockholder in the all-powerful RAMJAC Corporation. So Walter is suddenly made a corporate bigwig, and, when Mary Kathleen secretly dies, he illegally (but well-meaningly) keeps the company going. . . and winds up a jailbird again. Rich/poor, honest/criminal, management/labor - Vonnegut is playfully exploring the ease with which an American Everyman can alternate between these ostensible extremes. But he has covered much of that ground before - principally in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater - and he himself seems to become bored and mechanical halfway through. Not top-drawer Vonnegut, then, but guilty/innocent Walter is a fine creation, and there's enough of the author's narrative zip to keep fans happy even while the novel fizzles into foolishness. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 17th September 1992
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 13.1 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.21