Timequake

( 35 )

Overview

There's been a timequake. And everyone?even you?must live the decade between February 17, 1991 and February 17, 2001 over again. The trick is that we all have to do exactly the same things as we did the first time?minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year, betting on the wrong horse again, marrying the wrong person again. Why? You'll have to ask the old science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This was all his idea.

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Overview

There's been a timequake. And everyone—even you—must live the decade between February 17, 1991 and February 17, 2001 over again. The trick is that we all have to do exactly the same things as we did the first time—minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year, betting on the wrong horse again, marrying the wrong person again. Why? You'll have to ask the old science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This was all his idea.

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Editorial Reviews

Valerie Sayers
Highly entertaining. -- NY Times Book Review
New York Times Book Review
Wry and trenchant. . .highly entertaining.
Newsweek
His funniest book since Breakfast of Champions
Chicago Sun-Times
Irresistible reading.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Vonnegut is at his best.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Its publisher calls this Vonnegut's "first full-length work of fiction in seven years" (since the novel 'Hocus Pocus'), which seems like a polite way to avoid claiming it as a novel. It's certainly not that, nor is it, strictly speaking, a collection of stories. It is, rather, a good-natured and delightful ramble around the problem of not being able to get a book to work. Using his science-fictional alter ego Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut talks about a recalcitrant book of Trout's whose premise would have been that "a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum'' occurs, creating a 10-year hitch in time in which everyone is forced to live that period of their lives over again, every word and action exactly repeated, from 1991 until 2001, at which point their lives move forward once more. It is a nice conceit, and Vonnegut and Trout have some fun with it, all interwoven with anecdotes about the Vonnegut family, how it feels to be an aging author and suchlike. There are plenty of Vonnegut gems for the taking (he and William Styron agree at one point that only 17% of people in the world have lives worth living), but the effect of the book is more like a relaxed, jokey conversation than anything else. Call it a patchwork of brief, semi-fictional essays; no matter, Vonnegut is always good company.
Library Journal
Delayed over a year, Vonnegut's latest finally arrives, with alter ego Kilgore Trout facing millennial catastrophe.
Kirkus Reviews
Vonnegut's first "novel" in seven years (and 14th overall) might by an extremely generous extension of the term be labeled an unassuming metafiction.

Actually, it's unequal parts commonplace book, fragmentary autobiography, dystopian romance, and bemused meditation on our planet's presumable determination to destroy itself. The premise goes as follows: In the year 2001, "a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum, made everybody and everything do exactly what they'd been doing during the past decade . . . a second time": i.e., 2001 reverted to 1991, and "free will kicked in again" only after said decade had torturously re-run itself. One yearns to know what Thomas Berger might have made of this idea. Vonnegut, essentially, settles for employing it as an excuse to rummage through his own past and that of his alter-ego, the fictional science fiction writer Kilgore Trout. Accordingly, the novel about this "timequake" becomes a free-form farrago in which the author tenderly salutes and mourns his living and dead siblings, wives, and children; pays tribute to favorite books and writers; retells old jokes; reminisces about his experiences in WW II, and about his experiences also as a later respected public figure (visiting Nigeria after the Biafran War; giving a speech on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima); and woolgathers—often cloyingly—about the fate of "humanism" in an age dominated by technology. The book severely tests a reader's patience when it's padded with random bits of semi-relevant information and needless explanations (the plot of 'The Scarlet Letter'; the full text of the 23rd Psalm). And yet, Vonnegut's fitful summaries of the life and writings of the Hunter Thompsonlike Kilgore Trout are often very funny (the story "The Sisters B-36," set on "the matriarchal planet Booboo," really ought to have been written).

So, as he himself might say, it goes. "We are here on earth to fart around" runs one of Vonnegut's more endearing pronouncements. Nobody does it better.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425164341
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 275,078
  • Product dimensions: 7.82 (w) x 5.12 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most acclaimed American writers of the past century, died in New York City on April 11, 2007. He was the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels, including such literary classics as Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Penguin Group (USA) was fortunate to publish several of Mr. Vonnegut’s books, including the novels Timequake and Hocus Pocus as well as a collection of short fiction, Bagombo Snuff Box.

Biography

Born in 1922, Vonnegut grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. His architect father suffered great financial setbacks during the Depression and was unemployed for long stretches of time. His mother suffered from mental illness and eventually committed suicide in 1944, a trauma that haunted Vonnegut all his life. He attended Cornell in the early 1940s, but quit in order to enlist in the Army during WWII.

Vonnegut was shipped to Europe, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and was captured behind enemy lines and incarcerated in a German prison camp. As a POW, he witnessed the firebombing of Dresden by Allied forces, an event of devastating magnitude that left an indelible impression on the young soldier.

After the war, Vonnegut returned home and married his high school sweetheart. In addition to two daughters and a son of their own, he and his first wife adopted three children orphaned in 1958 by the death of Vonnegut's sister Alice. (He and his second wife adopted another daughter.) The family lived in Chicago and Schenectady before settling in Cape Cod, where Vonnegut began to concentrate seriously on his writing. His first novel, the darkly dystopian Player Piano, was published in 1952 and met with moderate success. Three additional novels followed (including the critically acclaimed Cat's Cradle), but it was not until the publication of 1969's Slaughterhouse Five that Vonnegut achieved true literary stardom. Based on the author's wartime experiences in Dresden, the novel resonated powerfully in the social upheaval of the Vietnam era.

Although he is best known for his novels (a genre-blending mix of social satire, science fiction, surrealism, and black comedy), Vonnegut also wrote short fiction, essays, and plays (the best known of which was Happy Birthday, Wanda June). In addition, he was a talented graphic artist who illustrated many of his books and exhibited sporadically during his literary career. He died on April 11, 2007, after suffering irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Kurt Vonnegut
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 11, 1922
    2. Place of Birth:
      Indianapolis, Indiana
    1. Date of Death:
      April 11, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Interviews & Essays

On Friday, October 3, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Kurt Vonnegut, author of TIMEQUAKE.


Marlene T: Hello, Jesse and Mr. Vonnegut. Welcome!

Kurt Vonnegut:



Bookpg JK: Good evening, Kurt.

Kurt Vonnegut: [hearty voice] It's nice to be here.



Bookpg JK: In previous books, "timequakes" are random -- characters move back and forth. In your new book, a timequake is a one-way return that makes people live through everything in sequence, no change possible. Does this represent a real change in your thinking, or is it just a plot device?

Kurt Vonnegut: I will be 75 on November 11th. I can look back over three quarters of a century. And that is a rerun. Everything I did I had to do. Every mistake and every success. During the rerun, the successes turn out not to be as wonderful as you remember. In my wonderful book, TIMEQUAKE, Kilgore Trout says, "If it isn't a rerun dragging us through knothole after knothole, it's something just as mean and powerful."



Bookpg JK: Our audience can't hear you and so might be tempted to conclude that this is a very downbeat message. But you sound quite jolly.

Kurt Vonnegut: I could cry. Or I could laugh -- as indeed I do. Both are responses to insoluble problems with the same physical solution a way of throwing off useless chemicals. These are chemicals that we have secreted in order to make us run or fight -- and the thing is, we can't do either. So we laugh or cry. I choose to laugh...because there's less cleaning up to do afterward.



Question: If you experienced a timequake in your own life, what decade would you choose to repeat and why?

Kurt Vonnegut: A great question -- and I have thought about it. I'd pick the time between age 44 and 54. What's great about this age for men is that you are finally treated as a grown-up. And men are attractive to women at that age and are still reasonably good lovers.



Bookpg JK: Speaking of which, you point out that writers -- even if poor -- attract unnaturally pretty women. In TIMEQUAKE you say, "Someone should study this." How would they go about it?

Kurt Vonnegut: Well, they would get a grant and ask a sample of beautiful women why they made this mistake. The other side of the coin is a quotation from Kilgore Trout "There is no way a beautiful woman can live up to what she looks like for any length of time."



Question: What inspired your great concept "unstuck in time"? And do you feel that in our media-oriented society we are all to some degree unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim?

Kurt Vonnegut: What is insidious about the media -- TV mainly -- is that it locks us into the present. Otherwise we might travel to the past in our heads. One of my children, an adopted nephew, is a comedy writer on TV. All of his jokes have to be about what was on TV in the last six weeks, or no one would know what he was talking about!



Question: In TIMEQUAKE, you seem justifiably disturbed at the idea of electronic media usurping the book's position as a treasured American art form. With this in mind, do you think it's possible that future generations will ever spawn a "great" author?

Kurt Vonnegut: I think that even before there was TV, there were great writers who were unappreciated. Melville's MOBY DICK wasn't acknowledged as a great book until about 1925. So masterpieces do get neglected.



Bookpg JK: But will our attention spans become so shortened that a great novel will be in an easy-to-digest length -- say, no longer than many of your books? In that sense, aren't you more likely to become a classic author than the Updikes, Cheevers, and Mailers?

Kurt Vonnegut: Yes. And there may also -- in time -- be famous Hallmark greeting cards! That the novel was ever an important source of information is incredible. A reader has to put on shows in his or her head. That is not a widely available skill. And the cues for this show are minimal idiosyncratic arrangements in lines of only 26 phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and eight or so punctuation marks. The Jeffersonian ideal of a literate electorate is like expecting everybody to play the French horn.



Question: Your brother Bernard was dying while you were writing TIMEQUAKE. Did this influence the nature of Kilgore Trout's passing in your book or your feelings about winding up your career as a novelist?

Kurt Vonnegut: The movie "Mother Night" gave me stronger feelings about my own mortality than the death of my brother did.



Bookpg JK: Along those lines, everyone who doesn't know you likes to think that Dresden was the formative experience of your life. I think they'll be surprised to read in TIMEQUAKE that you believe that it would be a more personal event the death of your sister.

Kurt Vonnegut: Historians -- popular historians -- like to point to a single event to account for the actions of a human being. St. Paul on the road, Darwin visiting the Galapagos, Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. But life isn't really like that. Darwin had explored a great deal of the coasts of South America. I think I personally spent more time in the Galapagos than Darwin did -- 18 days. And Newton didn't need an apple to hit him on the head. We don't have sudden transformations. But it is possible to break a human being's self-respect in a single event a torture chamber or solitary confinement.



Question: If TIMEQUAKE is your last novel, will you continue to speak or lecture? What about short fiction? Any plans for more short stories?

Kurt Vonnegut: I hardly know. I won't write another book, I'm quite sure. I'm sick of it! But I might write another play -- I like that. And I write short bits for radio station WNYC. I am fully in print and I can look back and see it all. I got a fair hearing. If I hadn't, I might be writing frantically.



Question: What character best expresses your own philosophy of life?

Kurt Vonnegut: Emma Bovary, c'est moi. In history? I'd like to have been Eugene Debs, the great labor leader who conducted the first strike. He tied up all the railroads, and in every book I've read recently, he is quoted. He said "As long as there is a lower class, I'm in it. As long as there's a criminal class, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free." He was the Socialist candidate for president four times. But you are probably asking about my books. As an astute reviewer of one of my books pointed out -- as though he had caught me stealing -- I have never created a character. I think that is probably true. I don't write well-rounded, breathing characters. Writers get congratulated for doing that -- as if the world weren't already overpopulated! If you devote a book to developing a living, breathing character, you can't talk about anything else. If you introduce sexual love as a factor, you can't talk about anything else -- the reader won't let you. So you steer clear of those subjects. May I also say, the Bible is similarly flawed. We don't know the color of Jonah's eyes. We don't know what Mary was like when she was angry. What is interesting about all the people in the Bible is their situation. And in my books, I hope the situation is interesting.



Bookpg JK: You have said, in your role as a writing teacher, just give the character a problem, that is, have him or her want something.

Kurt Vonnegut: Everyone in a story should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. If a writing student has one character look into the eyes of another and see secrets there, I say that is like looking into the headlights of a car to see if it needs a tune-up. There isn't any information in anyone's eyes. Also, if a student explains in depth why a character does something, I tell the student, "Forget it -- you're not that smart." Also, I tell students "The reader is perfectly willing to believe that the character was born. And that the character gets up in the morning and shaves and brushes his teeth and gets in a car and passes through a tollbooth." I say, "Just start in the office!"



Bookpg JK: Gee, here the publishers seem to be constantly lowering standards, and you seem to be saying that readers, that endangered species, are actually pretty bright. Indeed, the two books on top of the bestseller list, COLD MOUNTAIN and Frank McCourt's memoir, are quite smart and challenging. And TIMEQUAKE, rumor hath it, opens on the Times list this weekend at number seven. Is it possible that this hardy band of readers is an evolutionary force like cockroaches -- you can't kill them?

Kurt Vonnegut: Quite right. But the numbers of books sold -- the top sellers -- are quite small compared to almost any other well-known product. William Styron pointed out that the great Russian novels were written for minuscule audiences. There was very low literacy in the Russian Empire when they were written. I met a man the other night. He was very happy. He had just been voted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. I'm sure those are nice people, too!



Question: What is the biggest fault with the '60s era, and what is the biggest problem facing Generation X as a result?

Kurt Vonnegut: When I give graduation addresses -- and I do give some -- I say it's criminal to use the term Generation X. That's just two clicks from the end! The '60s were beautiful in a way. I have a degree in anthropology, and I have looked at the way that disaffected young people built their own culture. They did it around some books -- Hesse and my CAT'S CRADLE -- but the big thing was really great music! What discredited the '60s was drugs. And also that women were still treated like s***. Those were the two bad things. The good thing They formed a family that welcomed every sort of young person. People need families. And the music was terrific!



Question: As one of this culture's most creative men, do you feel that the power of creativity will ultimately win over the power of chaos in the world?

Kurt Vonnegut: That is for you to decide. Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow -- whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.



Bookpg JK: This is like what Raymond Carver wrote in one of his last poems, that the act of writing made him feel blessed. Looking back, with a scant minute to go in this event, is that how you feel?

Kurt Vonnegut: Yes, in retrospect. It felt lousy at the time because I was also trying to make money. If there hadn't been that urgency, I would have been rewarded -- and I would have been aware of it.



Bookpg JK: Well, speaking for this assembly and for your millions of readers, we certainly feel rewarded.

Kurt Vonnegut: To quote Texas Guinan, who ran a nightclub in the '20s, "Hello, suckers."



Bookpg JK: And on that note, thanks, Kurt!

Kurt Vonnegut:


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    my first book since H.S.

    About a year and a half ago, some girl i know gave me a copy of this book and told my to read it, i took it just to be polite not really expecting to look at it, when i got home i was locked out with nothing to do but start reading this book and it changed my life. i had no idea who vonnegut was or what he wrote about. but i was instantly hooked, i loved the way it was written and the way the story broke away from itself and all off a sudden came together again. I since have read four of his other works and about twenty other books. i even started writing one of my own and i blame it all on kurt vonnegut and the girl who gave me the book. thank you both.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2002

    Dare I say his best ever?

    After reading six of Vonnegut's books in period of two months, I picked Timequake, thinking not much of it. I read the book in under 72 hours, put it down, and then read it 3 more times in a matter of weeks. Even though you do need to read some of his books to completely get this one, it's probably the best book I've ever read. Forget the classics, pick up this book because there is no possible way that you can not enjoy it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2010

    DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!!!

    Please, for the love of God, do NOT waste your money on this book. If you absolutely MUST read it, borrow it from the library or a friend or whatever. I picked up this book at my local B&N store thinking the concept looked interesting and it would be a fun little romp through a wholly improbable sci-fi phenomenon. But I found it to be 200+ pages of senseless rambling that was at best mildly amusing, not anywhere near the outright "hilarious" I've seen many critics claim it to be. I finally stopped reading at chapter 44 out of disgust.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2012

    y

    Oufdueh.kkv

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  • Posted March 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Part Autobiography, Part Fiction, a Complete Joy If you read th

    Part Autobiography, Part Fiction, a Complete Joy

    If you read this book’s jacket, you already know the story. A timequake forces everyone back to ’91 for a ten year rerun. When it wears off and people don’t know how to react, failed sci-fi writer and veteran Vonnegut character, Kilgore Trout saves the day.

    I love the concept. I certainly wouldn’t mind reliving the 90’s, but the last decade was a real drag. The only criticism I have is that the story is minimized and the focus is on the author’s personal anecdotes and family stories. Then again, that’s Vonnegut.

    For the uninitiated, Vonnegut is the literary equivalent of pizza. He provides intellectual nourishment without being too preachy and overbearing. The thing I love most about him is the way he tells a ridiculous story in his deadpan, matter-of-fact tone.

    So, pour yourself a beverage of choice, put your feet up, and enjoy a delightful, effortless read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    It was good and also at the same time bad but ql in all it was amazing

    I like the amazimg booi on this nook even know its my faverite color

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    One of my favorites

    I rarely read books more than once. There are just too many that sound good that I haven't gotten to yet. Timequake, however, is the exception to the rule. I have a copy above my desk and every now and then pull it off the shelf and read a chapter. Why? I'm not sure, but I do that with no other book. It's funny, clever, and insightful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2007

    Amazing.

    Yeah, the headline says it all. It was absolutely amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2006

    Funny Stuff

    Vonnegut does it again. I origanally was forced to read Vonnegut for a sociology course. This is his second book I've read. Timequake made me laugh out loud while I was at the laundromat. I could not put it down, never boring. Mr. Vonnegut is one of the top 5 people who ever lived, that I would like to meet. He is full of exceptional creative power.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2004

    Okay for 90year old

    Read it.was okay.I liked vonneguts picture of kilgore trout in da begining,VERY funny.a MAJOR accomplishment for a man born in 1922.finis

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2003

    Vonnegut at His Best

    This is a reader's chance to get personal with Vonnegut. Timequake is filled with Vonnegut's personal experiences and philosophies. Any Vonnegut fan should read this for a deeper insight into the rest of his works. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Kurt Vonnegut in Timequake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2001

    Free Will! Free Will!

    It always seems to amaze the way this man can write a book. A hilarious story plus autobiography that only Vonnegut can pull off. We can only hope that Kilgore Trout is not dead. I give it five stars because that is all they will allow me. There isn't enough stars in the sky for this book, or any other Vonnegut book for that matter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2001

    What can be said?

    For the first time in my life I found myself laughing out loud at a book. I would almost shriek with laughter(if a man can shriek), the Mr. Vonnegut would make me think 'he has a point'. Read it, you won't regret the 'time'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2001

    Ting-A-Ling?!?!

    My enjoyment of this book goes beyond the 4-star rating I assigned. It shows that Mr. Vonnegut is still a very vibrant, soulful, and cunning linguist. I enjoyed the capsulizations of his family and loved ones -- particularly the passing of his literary alter ego, Mr. Kilgore Trout. If Mr. Trout is indeed dead, I hope we will still be visited by his ghost. TING-A-LING?!?!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2000

    hilarious

    i have read _Breakfast of Champions_, _Deadeye Dick_, _Slaughterhouse-5_, and now _Timequake_. the mix of imagination and autobiographical information in this novel is amazing. this novel makes the reader realise that life is a force to be reckoned with. 'you were sick, but now you're well again, and there's work to do.' personally, i think this is my favorite one yet. if you like vonnegut, read this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2000

    The most life-changing book I've read

    This novel, combining fiction and autobiography, kept me enthralled. Vonnegut provides a blunt and humorous portrait of our postmodern society, while managing to be inspirational.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 1999

    A Tribute to Mr.Vonnegut

    In this book, Kurt Vonnegut proves to be not only an artist with almost endless imagination, but also as an ordinary human with all his virtues and weaknesses. This is why this briliant blend of the fragments of his life and the fictional events created by his imagination attracted me so much. Ting-a-ling!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews

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