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Book: Hocus Pocus

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I'm trying to burst through my reading backlog in an attempt to catch-up before a large Amazon order arrives with more books. Hocus Pocus made it into the queue because I've been meaning to read some more Vonnegut, and, besides, according to this test my book personality is Cat's Cradle.

Hocus Pocus brings my own Vonnegut reading into more current times, with the Vietnam War legacy, the American prison system, race relations, infidelity, religion, and selling of America all entering Vonnegut's blender. It's hard for me to find it as sharp as Slaughterhouse Five or Cat's Cradle, but the first exposure always feels brighter and this was an entertaining read in its own right.

Quotes in the extended entry.

p. 2

During that war, which was about nothing but the ammunition business, there was a microscopic possibility, I suppose, that I called in a white-phosphorous barrage or a napalm air strike on a returning Jesus Christ.

p. 4

There are no dirty words in this book, except for "hell" and "God," in case someone is fearing that an innocent child might see 1. The expression I will use here and there for the end of the Vietnam War, for example, will be: when the excrement hit the air-conditioning."

Perhaps the only cprecept taught me by Grandfather Willis that I have honored by entire adult life is that profanity and obscenity entitle people who don't want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.

p. 14

I have discovered from reading old newspapers and letters and diaries back then that the men who built the machines for Elias Tarkington knew from the very first that they would never work, whatever the reason. Yet what love they lavished on the materials that comprised them! How is this for a definition of high art: "Making the most of the raw materials of futility"?

p. 49

"For Pete's sake," he said, "what could be uglier and dumber than a rhinoceros? Just because something can reproduce, that doesn't mean it should reproduce.

I pointed out that to a rhinoceros another rhinoceros was wonderful.

"That's the point," he said. "Every kind of animal thinks its own kind of animal is wonderful. So people getting married think they're wonderful, and that they're going to have a baby that's wonderful, when actually they're as ugly as rhinoceroses. Just because we think we're so wonderful doesn't mean we really are. We could be really terrible animals and just never admit it because it would hurt so much."

Chapter 21: anecdote of elevator being stuck as a description of what it was like to come home from the Vietnam War

p. 239

My body, as I understand it, is attempting to contain the TB gems inside me in little shells it builds around them. The shells are calcium, the most common element in the walls of many prisons, including Athena. This place is ringed by barbed wire. So was Auschwitz.

If I die of TB, it will be because my body could not build prisons fast enough and strong enough.

Is there a lesson there? Not a cheerful one.

p. 285

"At least we still have freedom of speech," I said.

And she said, "That isn't something that somebody else gives you. That's something you have to give yourself."

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on November 21, 2004 9:42 PM.

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