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Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut’

Imaginative, outrageous, darkly humorous, prophetic, satiric. Those were the words on my blind date with a bookseller selection from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville. Big reveal: I’ve never read Kurt Vonnegut before! I know, I know, I need to read Slaughterhouse Five.

The Sirens of Titan was Vonnegut’s second novel. It is just about all of the descriptions above – I’m not sure about prophetic, I’m still thinking about that. It’s a sci fi novel about a wealthy New Englander, Winston Niles Rumfoord, who flies into a “chronosynclastic infundibulum” In his spacecraft. As a result he is no longer his physical self; he only materializes when his energy waves line up with a planet. So he and his dog show up in Newport, RI every 59 days.

If this isn’t wild enough, Rumfoord can also see the past and the future. He manipulates a “Martian” invasion of Earth and orchestrates other events – including the coupling of his own wife, Beatrice, with another eccentric wealthy man, Malachi Constant, and the marooning of that man on Mercury for a few years – in order to bring about a new religion on Earth.

That religion, The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, is predicated on the “apathy” of God, which makes mankind “free and truthful and dignified at last” because “No longer can a fool like Malachi Constant point to a ridiculous accident of good luck and say ‘Somebody up there likes me.'”

Hmm. That seems like a pretty silly sendup of organized religion, but I guess there’s no denying that some religious leaders – like the aptly named Creflo Dollar – do claim that God approves of them and their flocks. That doesn’t make them right though, and in my mind it makes them as much a parody  of true religion as Rumfoord.

Still, that’s a minor quibble and The Sirens of Titan is funny and successfully satirizes the excesses of wealth and celebrity and the tyranny of extremism. I won’t tell you how it all turns out but I will say it’s a good read, intelligent and entertaining, and would be really fun to discuss in a group. I definitely want to read more Vonnegut.

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