Recent Obsessions

In the last few months, I have been reading books by two novelists in particular: Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5, Cat's Cradle) and Don Delillo (Great Jones Street, Falling Man). I don't know why these two have become paired in my mind, but I have been alternating on reading books of theirs, sometimes for the first or second times. I have also gone back into reading other classic books from my literary past, such as Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

Sometimes I want to reinvestigate a specific author because I was lazy in regard to his work years before. Most of the novels I read in college, for instance, I never finished, and when I did revisit them, I was much surprised to find how very good they were. Some of these books I will be covering here, though I may not mention this one salient fact at the time.


Great Jones Street by Don Delillo was a book that evaded me. I think that I read it very slowly the first time, and the second time around was no different. Parts of it were very hard to take, as they diverged from the idea of narrative. This was not the first book by Delillo that I read, but it was definitely his most psychotic.

The protagonist of the novel is a musician named Bucky Wunderlick, who drops out of his life. He leaves his current concert tour midstream, just walking off stage and leaving the building, chartering a plane, and finding a good place to hide. At least he thinks he can hide. He is a much more famous person than he thinks. It’s from this fact that all the details of the story originate. Great Jones Street is merely the anonymous physical location of the action, but the novel is about who we think we are and how we function in the world, alternately for ourselves, and for others.

Comments

  1. One of my all time favorite quote is from Slaughterhoue Five:

    The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks… When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.

    Kurt Vonnegut from Slaughterhouse-Five

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  2. I first read this book my senior year in high school, and mostly what I recall was how dark and shocking it was. We identified the narrator as a true straight man, a witness who is also a victim

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