on 1 April 1999
Nearing the end of his life, and this probably his final novel, Vonnegut writes about his feelings as the twentieth century comes to a close. The civil rights movement and socialism have both failed to end human unhappiness, and the aspirations of Vonnegut's generation, those who fought in WW2, have been left largely unfulfilled. Yet despite this undercurrent of despair, Vonnegut presents us with a hotch-potch of brilliantly funny anecdotes from his life (eg. the ballet dancer and the bucket), which he arranges in his familar style around a science-fiction-style plot. This book is both laugh-out loud and inspirational - a must have for all Vonnegut readers.
on 7 January 2006
It's hard to give this book a star rating. I enjoyed it, it was funny at times, poignant at others. It had a melancholy edge to it, yet had Vonnegut's trademark bizareness.
A few chapters in, you realise that there isn't going to be much of a narrative. There is a story of sorts that is a central point around which the book hangs, but for the most part the premise is a way for Vonnegut to write about his life and the world as he knows it. Perhaps this is his way of writing a kind of autobiography. It reminded me of Douglas Coupland's Life After God, but good and less angsty. It's a very meditative book, it ambles around without much of a direction, but that's ok, because it's filled with brilliant pieces of wisdom. "Listen: we are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anyone tell you different".
This is not a good book for Vonnegut newcomers. While I enjoyed it, it made me want to immediately go and re-read Breakfast of Champions, which I then realised was a much better book. I recommend readers start there and come to this one later. This is a good book and by most other author's standards might be approaching a masterpiece, but for Vonnegut it's more like a quiet coda to his more accomplished works.
on 2 June 2000
I remember the first Vonnegut I ever read: Cat's Cradle, read in 8 hours on a flight from London to Dallas when I was 14. It was unlike anything I had ever read before or have read since, Vonnegut's other novels included. But this book brought back the excitement of that first discovery.
Timequake is, as far as I am concerned, his best novel. Touching, funny, surreal, quizzical, elegiac, dismissive, pointless, asinine, glorious, weird, wonderful. I've run out of adjectives. Let's hope he can think of some more before he snuffs it.
Incidentally, if you're worried Kurt will pop his clogs and you'll have nothing to read, may I highly recommend Bo Fowler who seems to be making a brave stab at taking over his mantle.
on 27 February 2012
This is Vonnegut's last full novel- published a decade before his death- and I should emphasise what many reviewers have already said; this is not a Vonnegut novel for beginners. If you're looking to begin reading Vonnegut try his brilliant novel SlaughterHouse-Five. Alternatively consider Cat's Cradle or Mother Night. Yet avoid Timequake- you can only really appreciate this novel if you have read a good number of the author's other works already.
In Timequake Vonnegut ebbs and flows between often seemingly random topics, all of which are unified primarily by his immensely human experience. Chronolgy has very little meaning. Between bouts of anecdote and considerations of the state of post-modernist Western civilization against the backdrop of huge technological advancement, are patches of a more conventional Vonnegutian plot- a typically brillaint and fragmented tale of Kilgoure Trout. Yet fiction and autobiography are blended seamlessly- Vonnegut interacts both with the novel's fictional characters and describes the real people who defined his past- such that it is never quite clear where the line exists between fiction and reality. The result is somewhat chaotic, yet a genuinly very rewarding experience.
For me Vonnegut is one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, and Timequake provides a concurrently entertaining and truely moving insight into his remarkable perspective, written in a wry and humerous style which will be comfortably fimiliar to the many fans of this great author, for whom Timequake is an essential read. I have come to the conclusion that in many ways Timequake is the richest and most meaningful of Vonnegut's works. No other novel goes quite so far in revealing the importance, the beauty and ultimately the tumultuous torment of human awareness.
on 26 June 2007
When I first heard about this book, I have to say I was excited. I knew vaguely of Vonnegut as does everyone involved in literature and yet I'd read very little so when I finally came to stopping off at a bookshop this novel was definitely on my list.
This was in many ways a very good novel and I don't want to start by rubbishing its bad points so instead I'd like to say that it is very well executed, written in nice poignant prose, has some very important things to say on the nature of discovery and mankind and gives you a good insight into a man who has had an impressive body of work over the years. By the end of the book I couldn't help liking the old coot, his switching between playful silliness and frank talk of serious issues convincing me that this was a man I would have liked had I met him soon enough. The details of Vonnegut's life do give depth to a novel essentially devoid of any protagonists or real characters even.
Despite all of this I can't help feeling a little cheated by this novel. As an excercise in post-modernism and cultural discussion, it's delightful. However this isn't the book I bought, isn't even close to what the blurb describes. Perhaps if it was better labelled I may have come out of the other end feeling less disappointed.
Fundamentally, Timequake is such as solid concept for a novel and automatically suggests so many ideas for a good realist narrative that what we have here really feels like a shadow of something bigger. Although Vonnegut tells us that he wasn't happy with Timequake One and that this is his redraft, there is very little evidence of the original story in the finished work. The Timequake itself is almost entirely brushed over, being covered almost solely in a 30 page section about how Kilgore Trout behaves after free will resumes. Given the fact that the novel is constantly struggling with the ideas of the modern age and destiny vs. free will, couldn't we have just a little more colour in these sections?
I was expecting from all I'd heard about this novel that I'd get a post-modern sci-fi novel placed firmly in a realist narrative and yet I got nothing of the sort. The fictional characters of the text were far less rounded than those that were real, an example being Vonnegut's alter-ego Trout, who seemed to be a rough stab toward an eccentric that doesn't really deserve the limelight in such a story. His fictional novels were all good concepts but Kilgore himself expresses no more personality than any of the novel's other fictional characters. On the whole, the 'story' was a little too easy.
As I have already said, Vonnegut's voice is insightful and intelligent and yet I feel somewhere a trick was missed in this novel. I'd have preferred to read it as two seperate pieces, one composed of the small and random 'real life' stories that Vonnegut tells and the other a narrative based piece of postmodernism that sticks to its guns. In addition, I wonder if Trout really needed one last outing.
For such a beautifully modern idea, arriving in a time when so much of our lives are relived material, this novel falls a little short. It's a good read and worth a look if you want to see how to break the rules and do it well but it wasn't the book I had wanted. Maybe a little more timequake'd do it good.
on 16 February 2009
Timequake is another of Kurt Vonnegut classics. The author is one of those who are either loved by their readership or leave the audience cold. I am one of his enthusiasts. It is amazing how contemporary it feels when read today, while written well before recent turmoil in financial markets. I firmly believe that never there was a better time to read it. Highly recommended.
on 24 August 2011
I put this book down about four times during the first couple a chapters as I thought it was terrible, but I kept on reading. I'm glad I did.
I had never read any Kurt Vonnegut before (or had heard of him I'm afraid to say) so my expectations were very much based on the reviews and quotes at the back of the book. These give the distinct impression that the book is most definitely a fiction novel. It is not. It is more of an autobiographical book which uses the story as a sort of vessel to convey Vonnegut's anecdotes and musings amassed throughout his life.
It is highly entertaining, funny, and makes some lovely observations about life. Would have loved to have met the guy as I enjoyed the book that much!
Excellent book and highly recommended!
on 23 December 2012
I wanted to recapture the fun of reading Vonnegut in the 70's and settled on this late novel. I'd read that he had become even more pessimistic as he got older, and this tale proves it. It is as full of wit and ingenuity as ever, but there is an absence of warmth which detracts from its tragic side and leads one to question Vonnegut's fundamental humanism.
on 11 July 2013
Querulous meta-fictional ramblings, with a smattering of stand-up (juvenile; moose poop, anyone?) and philosophy (sophomoric), from the aging libertarian, starring both KV himself and alter ego Kilgore Trout (think Theodore Sturgeon nudge nudge), who's a bit of a bore. For those who read scifi for Weltanschauung rather than for plot
On the negative side, it's not joined up
On the positive side - is life?
On the positive side, it's like being in a room with the author
On the negative side, is that, like, a good thing?
Vonnegut thinks life not worth living yet laments the waste of war. These positions are incompatible. He sardonically quotes Housman, 'to die in their glory and never be old'; he would have done better with 'Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose. But young men think it is. And we were young.'
'We would prefer to live our lives as Humanists and not talk about it, or think more about it than we think about breathing.' Most in evolved societies do. There remains a worrying rump. Vonnegut holds that godlessness wouldn't suit 'the great majority of the planet's population.' Is he going soft? Belief, when evil and irrationality stalk the land, only stokes confusion
Mostly the jokes combust, although Goebbels would not have known Je ne regrette rien, which dates from 1956, and KV is surely wrong to place Luxembourg among the poorest nations, even given its size - maybe Andorra, at a pinch. And what does it say that someone like me, who finds the sequential inconsequential, is left panting for a narrative? A frothy, ultimately bitter confection, one of those rare prose works that might read better slightly p*ss*d (poetry requires sobriety), if a little preachy. Du bist ein novelist, Kurt; show, don't tell. (His big bro Bernie 'belongs to the World' - note that capital - and his ashes 'should be scattered over the dome of a towering thunderhead.' Jeez. Nobody deserves that. Is this what being a grandpappy does to a fella?) Yes, he looks back (page 157, hardback edn) to the days when a Harvard degree was worth something - but I still called it quits at page 170; shame. Less sentiment (he tells us that his six children 'are OK'; that's sure good to know) and more sheer rage might have upped the ante, but whether you find him affecting or irritating, we - petty, flawed humanity, in particular its American wing - probably need him more than he needs us. 2.75
NB GOTTA read Sirens of Titan again before I die - it's up there with Snow White. That's Barthelme's Snow White. GOTTA reread Barthelme's Snow White before I die. Gotta not die. (Kurt tells me it means 'going to Heaven'. It's the only actual scifi in the book)
Kurt Vonnegut started out to write a book called 'Timequake'. He stopped this novel and ended up writing this version, which has excerpts from the original plus autobiographical details of Vonnegut's life.
A timequake is when the world sends everyone back to re-live the last 10 years of their lives, Kilgore Trout, (Kurt Vonnegut's literary alter-ego), and Vonnegut himself are caught up in this event. Vonnegut gets to write 'Timequake' twice.
This is an excellent addition to Vonnegut's work. If you are a fan then you will already be familiar with the self-referential style of his writing, if not then try 'Timequake' as it is an easy read, each chapter is split into short paragraphs. Both funny and thoughtful - this shows Vonnegut ruminating on the the writers craft as well as the world at large, interspersing excerpts from the 'original' 'Timequake' novel with this 'Timequake' novel - plus short stories and anecdotes from Kilgore Trout, the fictional sci-fi writer.
Reality bending, time twisting fun.