Things that made me go hmm–Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick

I polished off Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slapstick a couple of nights ago, and thought it would be geeky fun to break some copyright laws by posting excerpts I thought were interesting. (I am including references, though, so am I still breaking the law?) Very few of my thoughts about the book are any kind of deep–I enjoyed it, and some of the concepts will tickle the back of my brain for a while, but I must be lacking in experience with satire because the book didn’t strike me as being incredibly profound. This is most likely a reflection of my [lack of both] intellect and experience more than Vonnegut’s writing and style of delivery. Now onto the huge quotes.

But we continued to drool and babble and so on, whenever grownups were around. It was fun.

We did not itch to display our intelligence in public. We did not think of intelligence as being useful or attractive in any way. We thought of it as being simply one more example of our freakishness, like our extra nipples and fingers and toes.

And we may have been right at that. You know?

Hi ho (42).

This makes me think about some of the discussions I’m had with girls at school who refuse to speak up in class for reasons other than shyness. Or, you know, black folk who do the same, even at a school like Rose, since they’re already apparently odd for going to a ridiculously expensive school to study crap like engineering. And I shouldn’t even say “even at a school like Rose”, because the first thing people do when some serious geekage is displayed is label someone a “tool“. I certainly understand the desire to not be a show-off, but the levels of tolerance for what defines showing off simply differ based on background, I suppose.

There was a time in our childhood when we actually agreed that we were lucky not to be beautiful. We knew from all the romantic novels I’d read out loud in my squeaky voice, often with gestures, that beautiful people had their privacy destroyed by passionate strangers.

We didn’t want that to happen to us, since the two of us alone composed not only a single mind but a thoroughly populated Universe (56).

I just like the language of this next one, because it struck me as being singularly different from the rest of the book. I don’t know if it’s the various metaphors used, or the feeling that the narrator is sort of wisening up to the situation at hand (even if that depth is rarely shown later in the book).

I assumed that Eliza had now assaulted my self-respect with every weapon she had. I had somehow survived.

Without pride, with a clinical and cynical sort of interest, I noted I had a cast-iron character which would repel attacks, apparently, even if I declined to put up defenses of any other kind.

[…] Her opening attacks had been aimed merely at exposing the cast iron in my character. She had merely sent out light patrols to cut down the trees and shrubs in front of my character, to strip it of its vines, so to speak.

And now, without my realizing it, the shell of my character stood before her concealed howitzers at nearly point-blank range, as naked and brittle as a Franklin stove.

Hi ho (124-5).

And this one I just love for the sheer wittiness:

“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” he said.


“Yes,” I said. “If out descendents don’t study out times closely, they will find that they have again exhausted the planet’s fossil fuels, that they have again died by the millions of influenza and The Green Death, that the sky has again been turned yellow by the propellants for underarm deodorants, thay they have again elected a senile President two meters tall, and that they are yet again the intellectual and spiritual inferiors of teeny-weeny Chinese.”

He did not join my laughter (225-6).

Current reading: Soseki Natsume’s I am a Cat (or Wagahai wa Neko de Aru for any Japanese speakers lurking) and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. It should also be cheerfully noted that I now have the first four Harry Potter books in a box-set in damn good condition, courtesy of Dulin and his mad Ebay hunting.