Seatbelts choose their favourite Kurt Vonnegut books
One of our favourite lines from Kurt Vonnegut is: "I say in speeches that a plausible
mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am
then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, "The Beatles did." - Seatbelts.
Kurt Vonnegut - Player Piano (1952)
This is my current read so it's probably the easiest to jabber on about. It's Vonnegut's debut and is the harrowing tale of an engineer (Mr Proteus) who finds himself immersed in an American Society dominated by supercomputers and machines. Uncanny, right? Mr Proteus, a charmless but wealthy American chap inherits his fathers factory. The good ol' days are over and the factory workers begin to lose their jobs due to being replaced by machines. Mr Proteus' work life and social circle is made up of heartless, money obsessed individuals living a rather typical bourgeois lifestyle of slightly unhappy marriages, distant from the rest of society. Everything gets messed up when Mr Proteus' friend, a former fellow engineer at the factory, visits to act as a conduit for his rebellion. It's classic Vonnegut. A man disposed to the deep and comic reflection on the human dilemma.
My favourite scene takes place in the workers local bar. The town is divided by a river; the wealthy heartless managers one side and the poor workers the other side. The kick in the balls moment for Mr Proteus happens when he is talking with the all too human, redundant factory workers. The following guilt and shame unfurls at the bar soundtracked by the Player Piano in the corner of the bar. In short, Vonnegut foresaw the world domination of of tech monsters like UBER, Google, Apple, Tesla et al and how they have caused the greatest destruction of jobs in labour history. The problem is Vonnegut warned everyone with satire... so no-one took note. - JAMES
Kurt Vonnegut - Hocus Pocus (1990)
"Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the world." In Hocus Pocus Vonnegut contrasts the lives of a handful of privileged white college students who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, with the lives of black and Hispanic inmates sentenced to life in Athena prison. Vonnegut's non-bias, matter-of-fact descriptions of the events and characters create conflicting opinions in the reader's mind. Our morals are put on trial. Every discussion I have had about Hocus Pocus has provoked a good old fashioned heated debate... - RYAN
Kurt Vonnegut – Timequake (1997)
Imagine the woozy, hold-the-phone feeling you get when experiencing déjà -vu: arms extended
outwards stammering, "wait, wait, wait... somethings not right." Now, try to imagine that feeling
lasting for more than a few seconds - imagine it lasting for ten years... sound fun? This is what
Vonnegut calls a 'timequake', and it's one of the more sinister concepts floating in the Sci-fi milieu. Using a non-linear narrative (to confuse matters further), Vonnegut fires out dark, but humorous anecdotes and aphorisms, leaving the reader feeling the weight of decision making, and ultimately doubting the existence of free will... Though it all sounds a bit doom and gloom, the overarching message seems to be for us not to dwell on the past. Timequake certainly scared me into being more a productive artist. - RYAN
Kurt Vonnegut - A Man Without A Country (2005)
I got this out from my local library a while back. I remember when I was reading this I honestly felt as if I was becoming a better person. I must have read it in a couple of days. It is Vonnegut's final book before he passed in 2007 consisting of brief essays/ramblings about the importance of humour, problems of modern technology, unease of modern politics and more. For me the short essays highlight the ridiculousness of society's expectations. I want to read it all the time. Like the bible or something, a passage a day. The book contains one of the best examples of Vonnegut's satirical nature with a quote about smoking: "I am going to sue the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, for a billion bucks! Starting when I was only 12 ears old, I have never chain-smoked anything but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me. But I am now 82. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats." - JAMES