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The Vonnegut Effect

Jerome Klinkowitz

Publication Year: 2012

Kurt Vonnegut is one of the few American writers since Mark Twain to have won and sustained a great popular acceptance while boldly introducing new themes and forms on the literary cutting edge. This is the "Vonnegut effect" that Jerome Klinkowitz finds unique among postmodernist authors. In this innovative study of the author's fiction, Klinkowitz examines the forces in American life that have made Vonnegut's works possible. Vonnegut shared with readers a world that includes the expansive timeline from the Great Depression, during which his family lost their economic support, through the countercultural revolt of the 1960s, during which his fiction first gained prominence. Vonnegut also explored the growth in recent decades of America's sway in art, which his fiction celebrates, and geopolitics, which his novels question. A pioneer in Vonnegut studies, Jerome Klinkowitz offers The Vonnegut Effect as a thorough treatment of the author's fiction—a canon covering more than a half century and comprising twenty books. Considering both Vonnegut's methods and the cultural needs they have served, Klinkowitz explains how those works came to be written and concludes with an assessment of the author's place in American fiction.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

The Vonnegut effect is a chronological investigation of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing as reflected by the social and critical contexts in which it has developed. The “effect” of his work has been unique in that he is the single American author to have won and sustained a great popular acceptance while embracing the more radical forms ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Working on Kurt Vonnegut has been an especially pleasurable task, thanks to all the good company. In an era when the subject contemporary studies too often involves battles of the books, the mood surrounding Vonnegut has been consistently cheerful. Chiefly responsible for this is the author himself, ...

A Key to Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: Vonnegut in America

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pp. 1-19

In 1957 Kurt Vonnegut was living in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, in a colonial-style frame house on Scudder’s Lane, a picturesquely named but quite functional address on the business side of Cape Cod. Kurt would tell people wondering where he lived to picture the cape as an arm flexed to make a muscle. ...

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Chapter One: Coming to Terms with Theme: Early Stories and Player Piano

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pp. 20-45

When in 1951 Kurt Vonnegut quit General Electric and moved his growing family to Cape Cod (the Cape), Massachusetts, and a hoped-for career of full-time writing, the materials he took with him spoke much for his education in the sciences and experiences with the researchers at GE. ...

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Chapter Two: Coming to Terms with Technique: The Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, Cat’s Cradle, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

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pp. 46-74

As long as the family magazine market for short fiction existed, Kurt Vonnegut need not be bothered with purely technical concerns. There was an accepted form for such material, and his anthropologist’s training had helped him discern how there was an identifiable pattern for each type of narrative ...

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Chapter Three: Speaking Personally: Slaughterhouse-Five and the Essays

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pp. 75-97

“The Hyannis Port Story” is more than Kurt Vonnegut’s last piece of fiction for the Saturday Evening Post. That it never appeared there, waiting for publication five years later in Welcome to the Monkey House, makes it fit into the author’s canon all the more comfortably, for in this narrative he looks forward to the next stage in his career. ...

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Chapter Four: Speaking Famously: Happy Birthday, Wanda June; Breakfast of Champions; Slapstick; Jailbird; and Deadeye Dick

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pp. 98-124

Slaughterhouse-Five is the last book Kurt Vonnegut wrote from the comforts of anonymity. If in his short stories for the Saturday Evening Post and novels for the paperback racks of America he spoke like the good neighbor living next door, it is because he was. But in 1970 all that ended. ...

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Chapter Five: Speaking Cosmically: Galápagos, Bluebeard, and Hocus Pocus

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pp. 125-150

Like his character Kilgore Trout, Kurt Vonnegut is not daunted by the task of rewriting major texts, even sacred ones. In his novels published between 1985 and 1990—a remarkably strong period yielding a full, complexly developed narrative every two and one-half years—he refashions the nineteenth century’s theory of evolution, ...

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Chapter Six: The Autobiography of a Novel: Timequake

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pp. 151-174

Timequake is not the first instance of Kurt Vonnegut taking problems of composition and turning them into a masterpiece of innovation. In the late 1990s simple old age was one of those problems. The man was in his seventies, one should not forget. For ten years he had been complaining that he was well beyond gold-watch time, ...

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Conclusion Vonnegut in Fiction

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pp. 175-194

Kurt Vonnegut’s place in literary history has been assured since 1969, when not only did Slaughterhouse-Five become a best-seller but also his college underground reputation of the previous decade blossomed into a full-fledged canonical presence. Similar reputations had been built by Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961) ...


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pp. 195-204


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pp. 205-210

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171143
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611170078

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2012