Kurt Vonnegut wasn't too crazy about the first version of his latest (and, he says, his last) book Timequake, which is part memoir, part rescued novel. As he writes in the introduction, "My great big fish, which stunk so, was entitled Timequake." The book was originally going to be about a cosmic rerun, where the whole world does one decade over again exactly as it did before. However, after a decade in a writer's block continuum, Vonnegut decided to jump ship and salvage what he could from the wreckage of "a novel that never wanted to be written." |
He "filleted" the big stinky sucker, took its best parts out and made a "stew," seasoning it with memories and personal anecdotes. Vonnegut's alter ego, Kilgore Trout, the science-fiction writer from previous novels (Slaughterhouse Five, Galapagos, Breakfast of Champions), looks back on his life as well when he meets up with Vonnegut at a clambake after history has repeated itself. Both authors discuss the idea of paralyzed "free will," the loss of loved ones and why "being alive is a crock of shit." Although it's filled with Vonnegut's unmistakable sarcasm and quirky insights, Timequake isn't a streamlined novel with a tightly bound plot and strictly directed characters. It's a loose, free-flowing farewell from one of America's most beloved voices in popular fiction.
Timequake is purportedly Kurt Vonnegut's last book, and while it probably won't be quite what readers would expect from the old sci-fi master, it's a fine book. The premise is that a "timequake" has occurred in the space-time continuum, forcing everyone to relive the decade between 1991 and 2001. Because history can't be changed, everyone is on automatic pilot during the rerun, repeating their actions of the "first" 10 years. When time snaps back to normal, the majority of people fall prey to post-timequake apathy (PTA): they're pretty confused, not only about what happened during the last 10 years but also about what will come next. Luckily Kurt Vonnegut and his fictional alter ego, the almost has-been science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, are there to explain it all.
Think of Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut's 19th and last novel (or so he says), as a victory lap. It's a confident final trot 'round the track by one of the greats of postwar American literature. After 40 years of practice, Vonnegut's got his schtick down cold, and it's a pleasure--if a slightly tame one--to watch him go through his paces one more time.
Timequake's a mongrel; it is half novel, half memoir, the project of a decade's worth of writer's block, a book "that didn't want to be written." The premise is standard-issue Vonnegut: "...a timequake, a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum, made everybody and everything do exactly what they'd done during past decades, for good or ill, a second time..." Simultaneously, the author's favorite tricks are on display--frequent visits with the shopworn science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, a Hitchcockian appearance by the author at the book's end, and frequent authorial opining on love, war, and society.