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Mark Twain (#110 of 4)

In Library of America We Trust Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963-1973

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In Library of America We Trust: Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963-1973
In Library of America We Trust: Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963-1973

“The drama of any air raid on a civilian population, a gesture in diplomacy to a man like Henry Kissinger, is about the inhumanity of many of man’s inventions to man. That is the dominant theme of what I have written during the past forty-five years or so.” So says Kurt Vonnegut in a special preface to Slaughterhouse-Five, a preface that is now in the final section of an excellent new Library of America collection of Vonnegut’s early novels and writings.

The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher that has, since 1982, been releasing a canon of our nation’s finest fiction and prettiest poetry, our most serious speeches and most legitimate journalism. LoA books are hardbound, printed on Bible paper, and contain a sewn-in ribbon bookmark and calligraphy on the cover. Many editions top 1,000 pages in length. The texts are edited by scholars and feature notes, a chronology of the author’s life, and corrections to the errors of earlier editions. What they lack in the scholarship of a Norton Critical Edition they make up for in elegance, in providing at a reasonable price the pleasures of a solidly bound, densely packed, good old book.

The most recent LoA release is Kurt Vonnegut: Novels and Stories 1963-1973. The bulk of the volume consists of four of Vonnegut’s better novels: Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions. Also included are short stories, speeches, addenda to Slaughterhouse-Five, as well as a very haunting and dear letter Vonnegut wrote to his family in 1945 after surviving the fire bombing of Dresden.

To the Point

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To the Point
To the Point

Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.” I wonder how much time gets spent on those loglines that describe movies in the little boxes on digital cable menu grids? I’ve become a bit of an aficionado of these bite-sized descriptions, and often find myself scrolling the menu not simply to see what’s on but also to see what the logline writers said about it.

Descriptions generally don’t exceed 25 words and often come in closer to 10. That’s a tight window, so it’s no wonder that logline writers would put functionality first. Yet the best still manage to suggest a point of view towards the material. War of the Roses, for instance, is described on my cable grid (Time Warner of Brooklyn) as, “Rich couple divorce, both get the house.” The Turning Point is described as, “Aging ballerina and ex-rival bicker.” The first description will tease a grin from anyone who knows what mayhem ensues after the Roses’ divorce. The second description suggests thinly-veiled contempt, as if the writer is trying to warn potential viewers, “That’s all there is to this movie.”