Kurt Vonnegut: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Edited by Tom McCartan

Peel: Six interviews with Vonnegut, in chronological order. The last interview is rather quick, at around three pages. The interviews touch on his views of other writers, education, war, politics, religion, and his take on humanity.

The interviews were full of Vonnegut’s wit, and very amusing to read. Generally I find author interviews disappointing as their works tend to greatly outshine some random Q&A sessions. Happily, this was not the case here, and instead the interviews read more like little raw bits of Vonnegut. My favorite interview was a Playboy one also with Joseph Heller, in which their conversation covers many topics and drops many names. With a bit of time between the rereadings, I’d say the interviews are indeed rereadable. I found that the interviews deepened my appreciation for Vonnegut, and I’ll have to go read some now.

As lovely as the interviews were, they tended to be rather repetitive in content and questioning. Questioning on most of his work, besides Slaughterhouse Five, would have been nice.

Nibble: “I propose that every person out of work be required to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare check.” -Vonnegut

If you enjoy Vonnegut, you’ll enjoy his interviews.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 beautiful, painless, apples

I received an electronic copy from the publisher, Melville House, via NetGalley.

Get the collection from Amazon

The New Death and others

Written by James Hutchings

Peel: Forty-four stories and nineteen poems are in this collection.

The content of this collection ranges from satire to horror to the fantastic, and many of the stories end with little twists. The author is unapologetically opinionated in matters of politics, religion, and morals but I didn’t find that off-putting. The first story that opens up the collection is one of all the gods picking dominions, but no one wants to be the God of the Poor. Throughout the collection, the author’s uniqueness and creativity becomes pretty apparent. There’s quite a bit of lovely dark whimsical poetry that tended to read like a song. The stories read rather honestly regardless of however fantastic they were. This collection could also be reread, and if in print, I’d say it’d make a lovely little coffee table book.

The collection wasn’t organized in any way which makes it easy to start reading at random, but not so great for reading larger chunks. Such jumps, like from an amusing little poem to heavy political matter, could have been avoided with sectioning. I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite from the collection, but I preferred the shorter clever pieces of flash fiction and poetry best. The longer stories were good, but they lacked the snappy humor that characterized the others.

Nibble: “It was strange, Fame thought, that Death was not more popular. She was so cheerful, and so fond of children.”

I would heavily recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys witty twisted works.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 dark Bramley apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

James Hutchings’s Site

Get the collection for 99 cents on Amazon

Aesop Revisited- Book 1

Written by Ethan Russell Erway

Peel: Six of Aesop’s fables are juxtaposed with Erway’s revisions of them. Erway adds two original fables, and pens an foreword and afterword by ‘Aesop’.

The introduction was rather amusing, full of tongue in cheek humor and self-deprication. The retellings of the fables were rather silly, some political, and all modern. The first tale, about an ant being taxed to feed the animals who don’t work and a lazy union worker grasshopper, was the strongest. Part of the appeal of the fable retellings were how ridiculously heavy handed they were. The entire collection is fourteen fables, and a swift read.

On a stylistic note, some of the fables declared the moral at the end and others did not, a little uniformity would have been nice. Also some tales clearly had the same moral as the original fable and others had the faintest connection, uniformity on this too would have made for a more cohesive collection. Amusing as the collection was, I doubt it would stand to multiple reads but that may be more tied to its satirical nature.

Nibble: “Why do bald-headed men never use keys? Because they’ve lost their locks. Ha, ha.”

I would recommend this to anyone who would enjoy silly caricatures of fables.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 parody pears

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Ethan Erway’s Site

Get the Kindle version for 99 cents on Amazon

8 Bits of Wisdom

By Andy Schindler

This is a self-help book that operates through old video games designed for the western heterosexual male working an office job. There are slightly amusing bits, mostly in which games the author picks to compare to certain life lessons. I actually found the most amusing part to be the foreword and afterword, which are based directly off the author’s life. I also found descriptions about the games were far more interesting than the tongue-in-cheek life lessons.

There are quite a few generalizations throughout the text which I found grating. Schindler tends to divide people into ready made categories, which is probably more of a result of it being a self-help book. There was also a rather odd piece of advise for raising children- that of using bribery to make them behave. To have someone so blatantly inclined towards only doing what directly and short term-wise helps them, doesn’t sound like the foundation of someone I’d want to be remotely friendly with. As a warning there is coarse language in this book, and it came off as natural but unnecessary.

I would recommend this book to a male who’s not offended easily, is looking for some guidance and enjoyed video games as a kid.

Nibble: “You can change your team makeup as you please, and it is important to remember that you and your friends might be shifting into different categories throughout your lives.”

My Rating: 4 out of 10 nostalgic red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

What Would Satan Do?

By Anthony Miller

This book had me chuckling from the beginning to end. I was actually a little skeptical after reading the summary and first fifty pages, as I expected the book to slow down and become monotonous. Happily it doesn’t though, and the story is just packed with humor and creativity. The plot is that Satan has decided against playing his role in Hell, as he knows on Judgement Day he’ll lose. So he goes to Earth as a human with some of his powers, and attempts to stop Judgement Day from ever happening. In the beginning of the book we see him teaching a religion class, which is interesting to say the least. Between the action and the variety of characters, the book is quickly paced, and certainly didn’t feel like an almost four hundred page book. Miller also ends the huge adventure in an interesting and cute way, that surprisingly works well for an Apocalypse story. The story has more than mere humor though, as some social commentary certainly adds something to think about while reading. What I really liked about this book though, was it seemed like Miller had a ton of fun writing it.

As a note, there is a bit of crude language in this book; but I found Miller handled it pretty well, and it came off as natural for the character to be using it.

Nibble: “It’s more like an enraged bull- an enraged bull who’s been poked, prodded, and generally tormented by a matador, and then fed amphetamines and stuffed into a small box.”

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting an amusing break from reality.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 fiery red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Mother Night

Vonnegut plays with shades of gray throughout this novel. Roughly it’s about an American spy who during WWII was an excellent propaganda machine for Germany. There’s excellent tension within the character of Campbell, and throughout the novel I found myself torn between if he was guilty or innocent. All of the characters exist in gray, and for the main supporting characters their good and/or evil title is rather ambiguous. There are a few haunting phrases that pop up multiple times, usually in German, that tie the story together beautifully. Vonnegut’s language is, as usual, gripping and very difficult to put down, even after you’ve finished. On top of that the ideas he shoves in your head are hard to let go of. If someone’s pretending to be evil for a good cause, how much better is that than just being evil? Especially if they have the same exact negative effects?

The only other Vonnegut novel I would put immediately above this one is Cat’s Cradle.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to rethink the definitions of good and evil, in disjunction and conjunction.

Nibble: “It was typical of his schizophrenia as a spy that he should use an institution he so admired for purposes of espionage.”

My Rating: 9 out of 10 tasty but colorless apples


Good Omens

By Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

As a light humorous read, Good Omens was fantastic. All of the characters, minus the rag-tag group of 11 year olds, were interesting to read about and developed the plot nicely. The book itself really only takes five days, which is retrospectively surprising for how much happens. The book also has some interesting theological ideas attached to it, although nothing terribly original. Watching Aziraphale, an angel, being not so angelic, and Crowley, a demon, being almost a nice guy, and the two interacting with each other is rather interesting. These two characters certainly made the book for me, although having the anti-christ named Adam was lovely as well. The footnotes are also rather amusing, and add another dimension to the book. The only major downside of this novel was the ending. It ties up a little too neatly and easily, and just isn’t as great as the rest of the novel.

Terry Pratchett is on my to-read list currently as I haven’t read anything just by him. Gaiman on the other hand, I’m rather well acquainted with. I felt that his individual works, like Anansi Boys or the Sandman series, developed protagonists much more fully. As amusing as the Good Omens characters are, they still feel very two dimensional.

Overall I would recommend it as an introduction to either of the authors, or as a fun read on a dark and stormy night.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 shiny red apples