Monday, April 14, 2014

Vonnegut tells all (and draws us pictures, too!)

"Show, don't tell" is gospel in just about every creative writing class, group, or circle these days. But Kurt Vonnegut writes like he's anathema.

All the man does is tell. He tells us what his characters are doing, what they're thinking, their measurements (dress measurements for women, penis measurements for men), he even tells us in advance how his book ends. Yet, Breakfast of Champions is just about the most compelling book I've read since starting this blog over a year ago.

It has to be the drawings.

Part of what Vonnegut makes horrible fun of in Breakfast of Champions is the idea that revelatory literature is marketed as/within pornography. "That's the only way it will sell," the publishers that the in-novel writer Kilgore Trout deals with surely say. More so to each other than to Kilgore, from what I've read so far.

And so I wonder if the same prurient curiousity that's inflamed by a racy magazine cover is what's driving me through this book.

Surely bullet points about the two psychologically complex characters Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout work similarly. They don't let us plumb the depths of these two, but instead offer only snapshots taken in their most vulnerable moments and states. It's almost as though Vonnegut has sat you down in a room and is throwing Polaroid after Polaroid on the table, with a brief narrative/explanation/description accompanying each.

Formally, the books been just brilliant and ridiculous all at once.

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