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Slapstick [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Perhaps the most autobiographical (and deliberately least disciplined) of Vonnegut's novels, Slapstick (1976) is in the form of a broken family odyssey and is surely a demonstration of its eponymous title. The story centers on brother and sister twins, children of Wilbur Swain, who are in sympathetic and (possibly) telepathic communication and who represent Vonnegut's relationship with his own sister who died young of cancer almost two decades before the book’s publication.

Vonnegut dedicated this to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Like their films and routines, this novel is an exercise in non-sequentiality and in the bizarre while using those devices to expose larger and terrible truths. The twins exemplify to Swain a kind of universal love; he campaigns for it while troops of technologically miniaturized Chinese are launched upon America. Love and carnage intersect in a novel contrived to combine credibility and common observation; critics could sense Vonnegut deliberately flouting narrative constraint or imperative in an attempt to destroy the very idea of the novel he was writing.

Slapstick becomes both product and commentary, event and self-criticism; an early and influential example of contemporary ""metafiction."" Vonnegut's tragic life--like the tragic lives of Laurel, Hardy, Buster Keaten and other exemplars of slapstick comedy--is the true center of a work whose cynicism overlays a trustfulness and sense of loss which are perhaps deeper and truer than expressed in any of Vonnegut's earlier or later works. Slapstick is a clear demonstration of the profound alliance of comedy and tragedy which, when Vonnegut is working close to his true sensibility, become indistinguishable.


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut’s audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut’s work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut’s work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut’s reputation (like Mark Twain’s) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.


Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut’s World War II POW experience) and Cat’s Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut’s work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut’s work as well as newcomers.

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"The non-stop invention, the jokes and clowning are in the familiar Vonnegut tradition" Daily Telegraph "Wittily and engagingly written " Guardian "A brilliant wacky ideas-monger" Observer "A cool writer, at once throwaway and passionate and very funny" Financial Times "One of the master alchemists of modern American fiction" Sunday Times

Book Description

A post-apocalyptic farce from cult hero Kurt Vonnegut

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1297 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (21 Aug. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IHWCF6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,983 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Vonnegut's best 24 April 2002
Slapstick (subtitled "Lonesome No More") as well as describing the strange childhood of the Swain twins, also paints a picture of a post apocalyptic world, where new York has been destroyed, and people are camping out in the ground floor of the abandoned Empire State Building.
The damaged male twin has managed to become the last president of the USA with a campaign built on the slogan "Lonesome No More", offering everybody the chance to join new extended families by the addition of new middle names.
The book is another of Kurt's attempts (IMHO) to describe the loneliness and futility of existence, but also that that life has an ironic humorous side. Whilst not dealing with the same big issues as Slaughterhouse 5, it speaks to me of much that is flawed but admirable in the human spirit- and it's bloody funny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slapstick 9 May 2009
Slapstick, or, Lonesome No More!

Slapstick is a book I have read many times. It's a book I seem to forget about and then remember again when discussing social welfare, politics, and how lonesomeness is by far one of the scariest things to face.

Vonnegut once wrote that because America's size, many Americans moved away from their families, In search of better jobs and better lives. But by doing so, people stopped having tight family networks as they did in the old days and that this was one of the downfalls of America; people were lonely. Vonnegut had a cure for loneliness, and in Slapstick, the last president of United States of America in his own loneliness, makes a law. He gives everyone a new middle and last name,for example: daffodil 13.In that way everyone would have family somewhere,the amount of names given being low.
I always forget about the ugly twins, and the way they were hidden away out of shame. The genius of them and the way they hide in the library. The way Kurt Vonnegut describes them, the rooms in the giant house, I can almost smell it.
Vonnegut is a genius at art of description. One is not bored by his massive detailed descriptions, but instead enthralled by them, and feeling as though you have been transported there with the characters.
Slapstick is a politically satirical book. It starts you off smiling, with a joke nearly from the first sentence and though much of the book is quite surrealistic, it is somehow believable.
I am a Vonnegut nerd, I admit it, and though this is not my favourite Vonnegut book (Cat's Cradle or Sirens of Titan), I definitely love it, and give it a very good review!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lonesome no more. 24 Jan. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A (kind of) autobiographical fiction from one of the most absorbing and powerful critics of contemporary America. Kurt Vonnegut capture us with his brilliant imagination, seduces us with his vision of the world, and wonders us with his own special way of dealing with pressing social constraints. Long live Vonnegut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slapstick, or, Lonesome No More 24 Sept. 2010
This is the first book I have read by Kurt Vonnegut so had nothing to compare it to. At first I thought of giving the book 3 stars as I did not find it laugh out loud funny. However, on reflection I felt 4 stars was more appropriate. The book is quite addictive as the reader follows the story of Wilbur Swain and his twin sister Eliza. Both were sent away as infants to live isolated lives from their parents in a futuristic, post apocalyptic America. One reason for this isolation was their ineffable ugliness from birth, however, when together they discover that their talents and capacity for knowledge is prodigious. It is through the lives of Wilbur and Eliza that Vonnegut takes the reader on a journey to futuristic America.
As I wrote earlier, and is purely just my opinion, some of the jokes were not as 'laugh out loud' as I had hoped. Yet there was a subtlety to some of his comments that gave them a humourous edge. One thing I cannot deny is Vonnegut's capacity for original ideas. The book is full of differing themes and scenarios as the story meanders from one siuation to another and different characters are introduced into the story adding to the total quality of the book.
If you enjoy abstact/off the wall humour then you would probably enjoy this book. Just be prepared to go where the author takes you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Apple-2 Beverley's review 29 Feb. 2004
A beautiful, amazing book, about genius, stupidity and human nature that manages to be funny with a bitter irony without ever losing the seriousness and beauty of its convoluted plot. As with all Vonnegut's books, it is told in flashback from the point of view of one of the characters, jumping around in time and referring to the present day in between long narratives of the past. Its stroke of genius is in the 'middle names' system employed by Wilbur Swain as President of America. If you want to get a new middle name for yourself based on the book's system, go to [...] and click 'Lonesome No More!'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satire at it's finest.. 12 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
...quite possibly my second favourite book by Mr Vonnegut - second only to Mother Night. I would never rate any of his books as side splitting funny, however the observations about the human condition are expertly disected and enfused with such ice-black comedy they speak volumes despite their brevity. This is a perfect example of one such books, a great concept with entertaining characters presenting a fable on lonliness and companionship.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Post apocalyptic musings from the great author
As always with Vonnegut, there's lots to think about.
The story, such as it is, tells of two siblings, twins, born ugly, and isolated until age 15 - assumed dumb, and treated... Read more
Published 11 months ago by YeahYeahNoh
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story telling
Vonnegut's skill in using absurd characters and events to make beautiful writing is as clear as ever. I wish I could imagine half of what he does.
Published 15 months ago by L. P. Carson
4.0 out of 5 stars A weird book.
I enjoyed the book because it makes nonsense of this life and the fact that we cannot be sure of anything. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jacob J Akol
4.0 out of 5 stars Completing his oeuvre.
Nor his best work but offbeat as usual. I have nearly all his books one this one nearly completes my collection.
Published 24 months ago by Mrs. M. E. Ainsworth
1.0 out of 5 stars not for me
I was so looking forward to reading a novel from this esteemed author but after only a few chapters the monotony of the author's family life began to bore the pants off me. Read more
Published on 6 Feb. 2013 by D. S. Crammer
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut is king
Known for 'Slaughterhouse 5' and 'Cat's Cradle', Vonnegut is a cult American writer. This one had me in stitches in some sections - the man is very funny. Read more
Published on 20 Jan. 2013 by Chris
1.0 out of 5 stars Am I missing something?
I have been meaning to read a Kurt Vonnegut book for sometime, but have yet to do so as I couldn`t bring myself to finish this nonsense. Read more
Published on 13 Jan. 2013 by Mr. A. P. Lawrence
4.0 out of 5 stars Hi ho
Entertaining gibberish. Original and creative. My favourite part was trying to figure out if the twins were genius or incestuous. Or both. Or neither.
Published on 9 Jan. 2013 by Matilda R. Urie
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and thought provoking
If you like Vonnegut, then you'll like this; not a starter book! I enjoyed it and as ever, am stunned by his surreal imagination and joy for life.
Published on 6 Jan. 2013 by Corrina Stratton-Darling
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