The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 11


Well, time to pick up the packs and move on. Let us think fondly of the fallen.

But just in case anyone’s trying to catch up, let’s make this a light week and meet up at the end of Chapter 13 of Breakfast of Champions, by the sign that says “Bluebird Farm.”

4 Responses to “The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 11”

  1. Jim Walters Says:

    I’m having a schizophrenic response to BoC, which might in fact be an appropriate reaction. I hate it and I love it; it freaks me out.

    Starting with what strike me as negatives, the narrative is told in mostly very simple prose, suitable for remedial readers. It’s intentionally inelegant and repetitive, dumbed down to the point of becoming boring. KV is treating his readers like children or simpletons. The child-like illustrations complement this intellectually reductive presentation. I can almost hear Vonnegut chuckling to himself as he was working on BoC, “Man, can you believe people will really PAY me good money for writing this drivel?”

    And then there is the low-grade quality of some the humor, much of which is at the level of potty jokes for five year-olds (really, a drawing of an anus?) or aimed at adolescent sexual prudery (anatomical dimensions). Please Kurt, spare me; I’m neither amused nor shocked by such infantile humor. At one point it seemed to me that BoC offers intellectual and esthetic values comparable to an infant smearing his poop on a wall. He acknowledges as much in the Preface, “I am programmed at fifty to perform childishly….”

    Although BoC shines a sarcastic spotlight on a wide range of individual, social, economic and governmental failings, I’m struck that this is a period piece, because all of the objectionable ism-behaviors he highlights, writing in 1973, e.g. racism, classism, sexism, materialism, “ETC.” are now mostly background noise for liberal/progressive thought in the 21st Century. I long ago became numb to most of the outrages he profiles. The fact that most of them still exist today doesn’t keep me from having deja vue…..been there, done that, nothing much has changed. This isn’t Vonnegut’s fault….but reading now in 2016, it does dull my appreciation of his sarcasms.

    Then there is KV’s own judgment that his writing in general, and this effort in particular, are failures. In the Preface he warns us, “What do I think about this particular book? I feel lousy about it, but I always feel lousy about my books.” And “So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk…..”

    On the positive side, some of his random observations are timeless and priceless. For example, I’ve enjoyed nursing his question about why somebody involved in truck transport would name his business for a pyramid, the most immobile object ever created by mankind.

    Another priceless bit is Vonnegut’s take on Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492, “the year in which pirates began to cheat and rob them.”

    If your understanding of Columbus as an heroic explorer was formed in the fifth grade, you should finish your education by following the link below:

    BoC has me limping on this leg of the March, but I will try to make the best of it and trudge on to the finish.

  2. The Old Man in KS Says:

    It’s looking like were down to just 4 of us on this march, unless there are others still reading but not keeping up w/posting. Anybody else still out there?

    Kurt’s accurate rendering of the old Holiday Inn sign brought back some pleasant memories, since in 1973 we considered it to be the ultimate in lower cost vacation accommodations, although many of their locations had difficulties keeping their waffle irons in working order.

    The “optimistic chimpanzee who became president” made Vonny once again look very prescient.

    Nigger. Kinda wished, like with Twain, he didn’t make use of that word, but I did note that he capitalizes it like most folks capitalized Negro in the ’70s as some kind of token respect?

  3. bill Says:

    I agree that I’d rather he’d avoided using the N word, but I think that the discordant note it strikes is intentional. The reality of race relations in this country is harsh, the logic goes, so it’s hypocritical not to use harsh language to describe it.

    The “optimistic chimpanzee who became president” line grabbed my attention too, though it’s hard for me to think of President Von Clownstick as an optimist given all his rhetoric about how fucked up everything is. He’s optimistic about his own abilities I guess. On the whole though Reagan fit the description better.

  4. Annie C Jaisser Says:

    The linguist in me is struck by V’s examples of the arbitrary nature of language: “leaks” means “mirrors” in Bermuda (why not?!) and the company name “Pyramid” was chosen based on its appealing sound rather than its meaning. I enjoyed how Trout created a planet where language was all about sounds and the music they created, at the expense of meaning.
    Trucking along, new characters in tow, wondering how the universes of the leading men in the alternating chapters will collide…

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