beware, there be spoilers: Hocus Pocus

Well, I have now finished the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. I had planned on reading them in chronological order, and it was only with the last two (Hocus Pocus and Timequake) that I inadvertently messed with the order of things. Alas.

Some of what I have to say about Hocus Pocus is what I’ve said about other novels. It’s good to see Kilgore Trout still inhabiting the Vonnegut-verse, even if only as the author of a story for which the narrator doesn’t know the author’s name; the way that Vonnegut weaves real people into his stories, to the extent that the curious needs to make much use of Google to sift the fictional from the real but not famous.

But mainly, what I want to say is that Vonnegut tells a lovely story. Hocus Pocus is told in the first person, with the author having written his memoir on scraps of people while imprisoned in a library, awaiting trial for rebellion.

Stories within stories, and I find it particularly interesting to be reading him while thinking about writing. I’ve had the blessed fortune this week to be able to immerse myself in writing: doing some writing myself, talking to other writers who are on this retreat as well, and generally thinking about the structure of the stories we tell each other, and the sorts of stories I want to tell.

As I’ve said on more than one occasion since the beginning of 2018, it’s interesting read through the novels of an entire author. As linked as the novels are to one another, though their characters, I don’t know whether it’s a fair thing to say that Vonnegut has been telling us one long story, but there are some strong recurring themes throughout.

Why, for instance, do we find it so difficult to be nice to one another. In the world of today, I think this is one of the fundamental questions we have to ask. Why indeed do we find it so difficult. And not only ask, but find an answer to. And that’s an answer I haven’t yet found.

One last thing: it is also amusing to share an idiosyncrasy with one of Vonnegut’s characters, as noted in the Editor’s Notes. I have let mine slip and perhaps that’s another horse to get back on.

~ by Jim Anderson on 10 May 2019.

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