Now Reading Player Piano

Unstuck in time.

Here is Kurt Vonnegut’s picture of an asshole.

My sanity-vanity project for 2021: (re)reading the 14 novels of Kurt Vonnegut, in order.

While I’ll be making use of OverDrive when possible, wait times for Vonnegut books are lengthy. To keep me on-schedule, you can help me buy the ebooks for my Kobo.

Cover to The Dial Press edition of Player Piano.

Now Reading ➙ Player Piano

Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.

Previously unread. Owned.

The Sirens of Titan

The Sirens of Titan is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there’ s a catch to the invitation—and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell.

Previously read. Owned.

Cover to The Dial Press edition of The Sirens of Titan.
Cover to The Dial Press edition of Mother Night.

Mother Night

Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.

Previously unread. Owned.

Cat’s Cradle

Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness. An apocalyptic tale of this planet’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer, and a vision of the future that is at once blackly fatalistic and hilariously funny. A book that left an indelible mark on an entire generation of readers, Cat’s Cradle is one of the twentieth century’s most important works—and Vonnegut at his very best.

Previously read. Owned.

Cover to The Dial Press edition of Cat’s Cradle.
Cover to The Dial Press edition of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Eliot Rosewater—drunk, volunteer fireman, and President of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation—is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature … with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is Kurt Vonnegut’s funniest satire, an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh we are all heir to.

Previously read. Not owned.

Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five combines historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, and satire in an account of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son turned draftee turned optometrist turned alien abductee. As Vonnegut had, Billy experiences the destruction of Dresden as a POW. Unlike Vonnegut, he experiences time travel, or coming “unstuck in time.”

Previously read. Owned.

Cover to the Modern Library edition of Slaughterhouse-Five.
Cover to The Dial Press edition of Breakfast of Champions.

Breakfast of Champions

In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.

Previously read. Not owned.

Slapstick

Slapstick presents an apocalyptic vision as seen through the eyes of the current King of Manhattan (and last President of the United States), a wickedly irreverent look at the all-too-possible results of today’s follies. But even the end of life-as-we-know-it is transformed by Kurt Vonnegut’s pen into hilarious farce—a final slapstick that may be the Almighty’s joke on us all.

Previously read. Owned.

Cover to The Dial Press edition of Slapstick.
Cover to The Dial Press edition of Jailbird.

Jailbird

Jailbird takes us into a fractured and comic, pure Vonnegut world of high crimes and misdemeanors in government—and in the heart. This wry tale follows bumbling bureaucrat Walter F. Starbuck from Harvard to the Nixon White House to the penitentiary as Watergate’s least known co-conspirator. But the humor turns dark when Vonnegut shines his spotlight on the cold hearts and calculated greed of the mighty, giving a razor-sharp edge to an unforgettable portrait of power and politics in our times.

Previously unread. Not owned.

Deadeye Dick

Deadeye Dick is Kurt Vonnegut’s funny, chillingly satirical look at the death of innocence. Amid a true Vonnegutian host of horrors—a double murder, a fatal dose of radioactivity, a decapitation, an annihilation of a city by a neutron bomb—Rudy Waltz, aka Deadeye Dick, takes us along on a zany search for absolution and happiness. Here is a tale of crime and punishment that makes us rethink what we believe … and who we say we are.

Previously unread. Not owned.

Cover to The Dial Press edition of Deadeye Dick.
Cover to The Dial Press edition of Galápagos.

Galápagos

Galápagos takes the reader back one million years, to A.D. 1986. A simple vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race. In this inimitable novel, America’ s master satirist looks at our world and shows us all that is sadly, madly awry—and all that is worth saving.

Previously read. Not owned.

Bluebeard

Broad humor and bitter irony collide in this fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, who, at age seventy-one, wants to be left alone on his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn. But then a voluptuous young widow badgers Rabo into telling his life story—and Vonnegut in turn tells us the plain, heart-hammering truth about man’s careless fancy to create or destroy what he loves.

Previously unread. Not owned.

Cover to The Dial Press edition of Bluebeard.
Cover to Berkley edition of Hocus Pocus.

Hocus Pocus

Here is the adventure of Eugene Debs Hartke. He’s a Vietnam veteran, a jazz pianist, a college professor, and a prognosticator of the apocalypse (and other things Earth-shattering). But that’s neither here nor there. Because at Tarkington College—where he teaches—the excrement is about to hit the air-conditioning. And it’s all Eugene’s fault.

Previously read. Not owned.

Timequake

There's been a timequake. And everyone—even you—must live the decade between February 17, 1991 and February 17, 2001 over again. The trick is that we all have to do exactly the same things as we did the first time—minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year, betting on the wrong horse again, marrying the wrong person again. Why? You'll have to ask the old science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This was all his idea.

Previously read. Not owned.

Cover to the Berkley edition of Timequake.

While I’ll be making use of OverDrive when possible, wait times for Vonnegut books are lengthy. To keep me on-schedule, you can help me buy the ebooks for my Kobo.

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Not affiliated with the forthcoming documentary, Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time.

Copyright © Bix Frankonis. All rights reserved. So it goes.

About becoming unstuck in time.

Here is a profile photo of Bix.

I’ve read, over the decades, nine of Vonnegut’s fourteen novels. (If you want to know my favorite, it’s quoted at the bottom of this site.) At some point late in the hell that was 2020, and notwithstanding that hells typically do not respect the borders of any calendar, I’d the idle thought that an epic Vonnegut read in the new year might be one way to contribute to my personal recovery—what I’ve taken to calling my “sanity-vanity project” for 2021.

Typically, at any given time I’ve one fiction and one nonfiction read underway. Some of these novels will serve as that fiction read, while others, I suspect, I’ll try to wedge in as a third concurrent book. Either way, the sorts of random thoughts, observations, and highlights that in previous incarnations I’d have tweeted or blogged instead will be recorded here.

Don’t overthink that reading the novels in order doesn’t seem to be all that unstuck in time. The goal itself is meant to orient me in a kind of separate mental life during this first post-2020 (and post-authoritarian regime) year—also, domain name registration for that famous phrase describing Billy Pilgrim’s condition was all of $1.98.

To a degree, though, it is my having quit social media that brought to mind becoming unstuck in time, as deleting my accounts yielded the realization that my relationship to how I spent my time had been dramatically distorted by the rhythms of the feed—even without the added vagaries of an algorithmic timeline.

(Literally, everything from the capacity or nature of my own thoughts to my ability to focus on, say, housework, shifted with surprising rapidity in the weeks after my escape from the feed.)

There are major goals my life needs to grapple; finally becoming nearer to self-sufficiency after all those decades as an undiagnosed autistic being no small such. Those are complicated and complex goals, many accompanied by all sorts of physical and mental baggage.

Reading all of Vonnegut’s novels, then, could be considered a “starter” goal: am I capable of any kind of sustained mental effort in the new year? (Or, a second sustained mental effort; there’s the weekly psychoconsult.)

Mostly, though, I suppose I’m just curious. I’ve not read any Vonnegut for at least a decade; most of what I’ve read would have been two decades ago or more. How does what Vonnegut wrote, and how I read what he wrote, feel today? What sort of refuge or recovery can he bring me after a year in which so often, as in Slapstick, the very gravity of the earth could seem off?

Whatever the case, 2020 ends and 2021 begins. There’s no magic switch tripped upon reaching another interyear midnight. There’s just finding ways to reach the next one.

“So it goes.”

Coming soon.

Here is Kurt Vonnegut’s picture of an asshole.

Coming later in 2021.

Here is Kurt Vonnegut’s picture of an asshole.

Bix’s notes on Player Piano.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on The Sirens of Titan.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Mother Night.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Cat’s Cradle.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Slaughterhouse-Five.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Breakfast of Champions.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Slapstick.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Jailbird.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Deadeye Dick.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Galápagos.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Bluebeard.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Hocus Pocus.

Coming in 2021.

Bix’s notes on Timequake.

Coming in 2021.