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Hocus Pocus Paperback – 29 Oct 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Publishing Corporation,U.S.; Berkley Trade Pbk. Ed edition (29 Oct. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425161293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425161296
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,999,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was a writer, lecturer and painter. He was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and studied biochemistry at Cornell University. During WWII, as a prisoner of war in Germany, he witnessed the destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers, an experience which inspired Slaughterhouse Five. First published in 1950, he went on to write fourteen novels, four plays, and three short story collections, in addition to countless works of short fiction and nonfiction. He died in 2007.

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Review

"Vonnegut's best novel in years-funny and prophetic...something special" (The Nation)

"Although it is set in the near future, Hocus Pocus is the most topical, realistic Vonnegut novel to date, and shows the struggle of an artist a little impatient with allegory and more than a little impatient with his own country" (New York Times Book Review)

"Hocus Pocus is, of course, extremely funny. Jokes are told, deadpan and whiplash-sharp; neat, compulsive little anecdotes with stings in the tail jostle one another down the page" (Sunday Correspondent)

"After you have read one of Kurt Vonnegut's gleefully pessimistic novels, his words go on colouring your world for a long time afterwards... not to read him would be to miss out on lessons that need to be learned about the age we live in" (Sunday Times)

"It is all done with voice. Vonnegut is a master of the first-person, manic-depressive stand-up" (Observer) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Master of post-modern satire, Kurt Vonnegut patterns trajectories of sex, spite, crime and power in this kaleidoscopic novel --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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MY NAME IS Eugene Debs Hartke, and I was born in 1940. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Buyer on 10 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had never even heard of Kurt Vonnegut until being stuck in a car during a road-trip across California with only an LA Times to read - which happened to have a 2-page feature on the author just after he died. A few weeks later I ordered one of his books on the off-chance it might be good, and in the months following then I have been devouring his body of work, and recommending his books to anyone with an interest in reading.

Hocus Pocus is possibly my favourite so far, although in saying that I have not read a bad one yet. As with all Vonnegut's books, this is filled with cynicism, pessimism, tragedy, distrust of authority, brutal honesty and cutting character assinations (of character types if not of real people). Yet for all that, the humour, invention and underlying humanity of the man means this is never a depressing read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By electro_cute on 12 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I discovered Kurt Vonnegut the same year he died. It wasn't through the news of his death but a quote I saw on a website, of all places, that intrigued me.

After that I read Man Without a Country so I wasn't a typical fan reading his work beforehand, I read about the person behind books like Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle. I fell in love with the thoughts, theories and opinions of Kurt Vonnegut and of course fell in love with his work once I began reading it. Kurt Vonnegut was a man who had such imagination and such a view on the world that it's easy to capture his thoughts and look at the world through different eyes.

Hocus Pocus or, What's the Hurry Son? Is set in the near future (the book was published in 1990) and you follow a man and his story on how he became a prisoner across from his old place of work in Tarkington College. Inbetween you are being filled with background information, history and views of the place in which this character lives. Pretty soon you are in a world filled with details on his work, his family, his colleagues, his love and his fear. As always Vonnegut makes sure we get the picture, he's also the first author where I can imagine exactly how the story plays out in my head. His style of writing is magnificent.

It may not be his most famous work but I still think Hocus Pocus or What's the Hurry Son? is a must read for any fan of Kurt Vonnegut. You may even find a character that's came up in previous Vonnegut books.

Blink and you'll miss it but don't miss out on this great read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ever since my introduction to Vonnegut's work (via The Universe Versus Alex Woods) I have become something of a Vonnegut obsessive. I devoured this book more or less in one sitting and was laughing so much it hurt in places. The story concerns the character of Gene Hartke who is being held in prison after allegedly masterminding a mass escape which had murderously bloody results. Hartke then goes on to record (on random scraps of paper ripped from the end papers of library books) his entire life story including his accidental career as a war hero in Vietnam, his accidental role as teacher, how he came to be saddled with the care of two insane women, his many adulterous affairs, his accidental role as a prison warden, his accidental role as a Brigadier and finally his role as prisoner in the same prison in which he was a warden.

The book is a stroke of brilliance - Hartke's (many) misfortunes and adventures are just sublime in their relation. The author never misses a step and the entire story is utterly seamless. The fact that it is recorded on ragged scraps of paper indicated by many lines showing breaks to different scraps of paper just adds to the story and illustrates the narrator's thought processes as he sets down his tale.

There's a lot of satire here about what was going on in America at the time, the author's pessimism for the human race - and you'd have to be really dense to miss the parallel between the Vietnam conflict (where one of Hartke's roles is to ensure only the right people get on the helicopter at the end) and the prison break where only certain (the right) hostages can get on the helicopter to the White House.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Pamphleteer on 12 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
One of Vonnegut's best - up there with Mother Night and (almost) Cat's Cradle. With a wry eye for comedy and an unimpeachable feel for pacing, our hero somehow manages to convey what is both farcical and revolting in the normal state of human affairs. Funny and true.
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By Bookie TOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Feb. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Vonnegut's style is unconventional and idiosyncratic. He defies convention and in this tale, the story is fragmented both literally and figuratively by the 'fact' that it's captured on scraps of paper which vary in size.

As in other works, he's dark, filled with pessimism and hints of anarchy. Is it even possible to summarize or fully interperet a non linear story which considers post Vietnam Imperialism, racism, drugs, globalisation and a raft of other themes?

It's some ( many!) years since I went through a Vonnegut phase which included Cats's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five. I wasn't sure whether I'd find his style and content dated, irrelevant and contrived. Verdict; yes, he's probably an acquired taste. But there's a great deal of humour hidden within the apparent hopelessness which faces mankind. It's still works as satire. And the underlying message remains relevant; never trust a politician or TV... Hocus PocusI
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