The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 7

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on October 24th, 2016 by bill

Now that Rosewater County is safely in the rear-view mirror, let’s proceed to the end of Chapter 3 of Slaughterhouse-Five, where we’ll learn about “the night he was kidnapped by a flying saucer from Tralfamadore.”

The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 6

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on October 11th, 2016 by bill

All who are still aboard, let’s proceed to the end of God Bless You Mr. Rosewater:

“…be fruitful and multiply.”

The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 5

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on October 4th, 2016 by bill

OK, we have a quorum at least, so let’s keep moving.

For those who may have fallen behind, let’s set a modest page count for this week: let’s meet at the end of Chapter 10 of Mr. Rosewater:

“And look who’s winning. And look who’s won.”

The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 4

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on September 26th, 2016 by bill

Up next, it’s God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

Let’s meet up Monday October 3 at the end of Chapter 6, where “Frustration made Norman Mushari sneeze.”

The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 3

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on September 19th, 2016 by bill

Fallingwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This week is a sprint to the end of Cat’s Cradle, in which I’m sure that everyone will live happily ever after.

The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 2

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on September 11th, 2016 by bill

Today is 9/11. Tomorrow is 9/12. By 9/19, I hope to be at the end of Chapter 88 of Cat’s Cradle, which comes on page 131 of the American Library edition. I hope to see you there, where “…he was no good at facing the public, and neither am I.”

The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch: Week 1

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on September 4th, 2016 by bill

And we’re off.

Let’s meet up next Monday at the end of Chapter 43 of Cat’s Cradle, where we’ll learn that “he hadn’t murdered his son after all.”

Here’s some music to march by:

How a Deathmarch Works

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on August 31st, 2016 by bill

A few people have asked for clarification about how a Deathmarch works. So here’s the deal:

Every Monday I will post a new entry here giving the target for that week. Usually in the past we have done about 50 pgs/week, but given the relative simplicity of Vonnegutian prose, we’ll probably up that a bit this time. For instance, I think we’ll try to knock off Cat’s Cradle — 188 pages in the Library of America edition — in three weeks.

Throughout the week people will discuss that week’s reading in the Comments thread. No spoilers, please, assuming spoilage is even possible here.

If at the end of the March you have commented every week, there is some sort of prize. Sometimes it is just the knowledge of a job well done, and sometimes it is some piece of swag like a mug or magnet. This time, we’ll see how it goes.

Any other questions?

Announcing: The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch

Posted in The Rabo Karabekian Memorial Deathmarch on August 29th, 2016 by bill

11 years ago (!), my sibling Cecil Vortex introduced the concept of the “Deathmarch,” in which a group of brave souls work together to tackle some formidable piece of literature. In this way we conquered tomes including Gravity’s Rainbow, The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote, and many (OK, several) more.

The Deathmarch has been dormant since the 2011 battle of Infinite Jest, which resulted in quite a few casualties. But I talked to Cecil yesterday and we decided it’s time.

In part this is inspired by my recent Kurt Vonnegut kick (see four posts ago), and by the fact that two…or was it three?…Christmases ago I received a lovely edition of all Vonnegut 1963-73, which has been moldering in a cabinet as I make my way through the endless Pile of the Unread.

The edition of which I speak looks like this:

And here’s an Amazon link.

You are not necessarily required to own this edition to participate. The novels covered will be:

Cat’s Cradle
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Slaughterhouse Five
Breakfast of Champions

But there are also some stories and essays at the end of the big book. I think we’ll decide whether to include these in the March when the time comes.

Of course, reading the work of Kurt Vonnegut scarcely deserves the name “Deathmarch”; his stuff goes down like popcorn compared to the weighty prose of a Pynchon or Wallace. But, you know, branding.

I’m thinking we’ll start next Monday, September 5. Who’s in?

What’s Blowing My Mind, 2016 Edition (Part 4)

Posted in Read it in books on August 22nd, 2016 by bill

Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve sensed for awhile that I had a Vonnegut period coming, and it arrived this week. I’ve been reading Welcome to the Monkey House as well as listening to the audiobook of Breakfast of Champions read by John Malkovich.

The latter makes BoC a somewhat darker experience than it is on the page, though when you think about what happens in the story, clearly that darkness was always there. In print it may be leavened somewhat by KV’s whimsical illustrations, which obviously are difficult to translate to the audio version. So if you’ve ever longed to hear the great John Malkovich attempt to describe Kurt Vonnegut’s drawing of an asshole, now you can.

For awhile I thought Malkovich and Vonnegut might be a stylistic mismatch, but it’s improved as it’s gone along, and the Malk absolutely kills Rabo Karabekian’s monologue about unwavering bands of light. Karabekian is a strange case — here Vonnegut has created a character that he clearly detests, and says so. And yet he gives Karabekian a beautiful and lucid speech that’s right at the heart of what Breakfast of Champions is all about.

I now give you my word of honor…that the picture your city owns shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal—the “I am” to which all messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us—in a mouse, in a deer, in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous adventure may befall us. A sacred picture of Saint Anthony alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light. If a cockroach were near him, or a cocktail waitress, the picture would show two such bands of light. Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.

He seems like one of those characters who just takes on a life of his own. (I am pleased to note that Rabo Karabekian has his own Wikipedia page.)
Read more »