Saturday, July 30, 2011


As some of you know, I'm taking an online literature class this summer. We're reading Kurt Vonnegut's novels. This being an online class, we discuss things on forums, sharing our responses to specific questions that our prof posts concerning the texts we're reading.

One of the questions this week asked us to try to identify a type or types of literature that we believed to be similar in style or genre to Vonnegut's. And, well, if any of you are familiar with Vonnegut, you'll understand--it's a tough question.

I don't think I've ever read anything like Vonnegut. The guy is so many things all rolled into one. He's crass and irreverent, yet compassionate. He's socially aware and his prose often cuts to the quick, yet he maintains a youthfulness of heart. Here's what I mean:

Excerpt and illustration from Breakfast of Champions

Something else Vonnegut wrote somewhere...

One of the things I love most about Vonnegut, and my professor Dr. Bill Gholson put it perfectly, is that he "breaks down the walls between author and audience." The illustrations I posted above are, I think, perfectly indicative of this fact. One of the ways Vonnegut does this "breaking down" is by speaking as himself, as Kurt Vonnegut, to myself, the reader, directly. He also inserts himself into the narrative at certain points, sometimes unexpectly, giving the text a certain "meta" quality. It's as though Vonnegut were poking a little bit of fun at both himself and his audience. But we're all laughing, so it's okay.

Metafiction is a literary style, and many authors have subscribed to it. However, I don't think anybody has quite achieved the transparency and wit with which Vonnegut subscribes to meta-narrative in his fiction. I contributed to the forum, comparing Vonnegut's use of magical realism to a couple other modernist, literary types, but I still maintain that Vonnegut carved out a niche in post-modern fiction that makes him truly one of a kind.


  1. Drawing an asshole doesn't seem clever at all. ha ha

  2. Not clever. More like "I don't give a fuck." Which is hilarious and a much needed dose of "don't-take-yourself-too-seriously." :)

  3. That is a tough question. I'm drawing blanks! I think your summary is just about perfect, though. We could use more writers in this niche ... Many that come to mind fall just a tad short of his wit and end up being silly by comparison.

  4. Lauren, I know! My comparisons were coming up pretty flat, too! But then, just the other day, I thought of Jonathon's Swift, and his short piece
    "A Modest Proposal." Have you read this? I think perhaps Vonnegut finds a best chum in Swift. :)



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