Jacket Copy The Los Angeles Times
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The Reading Life: Rediscovering Vonnegut
September 7, 2010 | 7:00 am by David L. Ulin
The rental house on Cape Cod where I've spent part of nearly every August since I was 9 years old has an amazing library. It's one of the appeals of the place: the opportunity to dig around in all those books, familiar and unfamiliar at once. They're not my books -- and yet, after all this time, I know them so intimately that it almost feels as if they were.
I discovered Georges Simenon in this house, one rainy afternoon when I was in my teens, and also P. G. Wodehouse, read Steinbeck's "Burning Bright" and "The Moon Is Down," worked my way through Bellow and Dickens and the collected writings of JFK. Many of these authors I've come to gather on my own shelves, but there is something about the randomness, the serendipity, of what a friend calls the guest house library, a way of simultaneously getting outside of and coming closer to oneself.
This summer, I found myself drawn to Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel "Slaughterhouse-Five," which I hadn't read in at least 20 years. As a kid in this house, I nurtured a Vonnegut fixation, devouring his books in their uniform Dell mass-market paperback editions: "Cat's Cradle," "The Sirens of Titan," "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," "Welcome to the Monkey House." I spent decades hunting for his out-of-print collection "Canary in a Cat House," and even made a few tentative adolescent efforts to track him down.
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The first time I threw out my back was the opportunity for my first intense Vonnegut reading jag...most of his novels that I hadn't already read, of which I liked BLUEBEARD best (I'd read my other favorite of his, THE SIRENS OF TITAN, years before).
Thanks for pointing the way to this article, Ed! I've been slowly working my way back through the Vonnegut catalog the last couple years, and last night I finished one of his novels that didn't make a big impression on me when I read it as a teen: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. This time, it absolutely blew me away. I'll have to try Todd's fave, Bluebeard, next. That one also didn't wow me when I was young. But if God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is any indication, I should be in for a treat.
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