23 May 2012

"I Was There": William Deresiewicz on Vonnegut

A marvelous essay on the attractions of Kurt Vonnegut's writing and a spot-on assessment of the author's work is in The Nation this week.  William Deresiewicz and I differ slightly on ranking.  He feels Slaughterhouse-Five is the greatest, just above Sirens of Titan, and I consider the latter Vonnegut's greatest work.  But Deresiewicz's description of the author's prose is dead-to-rights:
The spareness hits you first. The first page contains fourteen paragraphs, none of them longer than two sentences, some of them as short as five words. It’s like he’s placing pieces on a game board—so, and so, and so. The story moves from one intensely spotlit moment to the next, one idea to the next, without delay or filler. The prose is equally efficient, with a scalding syncopated wit: “‘I told her that you and she were to be married on Mars.’ He shrugged. ‘Not married exactly—’ he said, ‘but bred by the Martians—like farm animals.’”

The freedom is stunning.
Check it out.

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