The Complete Works of Kurt Vonnegut Part 3: Slapstick

Kurt Vonnegut by Scott Watson

In the following series of articles, I will rank all 14 of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel from bottom to top. 

In this, part 3 , I will review #10, SLAPSTICK, on my way to the #1 Kurt Vonnegut novel of all time (according to this author)

For #14-12, click here.

For # 11, click here.

So, without further ado…

10. – Slapstick

slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut When asked to grade his own works in, “Palm Sunday,” (whose autobiographical nature  excludes it from this list) Vonnegut gave Slapstick a D.

But Why?

I will say that the preface for Slapstick, which involves the life and times of the last president of the United State Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swan, is almost as good as the actual book.

In this preface, Vonnegut plants two valuable nuggets of information:

– A writer is a person who hates writing (often true.)

– Any creation which has any wholeness was made by an artist with an audience of one in mind.

(There is a significant drop in the general quality of Vonnegut’s work after his sister died, suggesting that she truly was his audience of one when he was writing.)

Vonnegut also mentions that Slapstick, hidden under metric tons of symbolism, was actually an autobiography of his life, with ruminations on the meaning of loneliness after losing his sister. 

I can see this connection after reading Slapstick, but it is faint, dear readers, it is faint.

The main character in Slapstick, Dr Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, recounts the memoir of his life as a telepathic neolythite (he has the appearance of a cave-man) with a twin sister name Eliza. At first, they are thought to be mentally deficient and, because of this and their frighteningly paleolithic appearance, Wilbur and his sister are imprisoned in a mansion by their rich parents. It’s during this imprisonment that Wilbur and Eliza use their telepathic bond to become one mind, one genius, until one day they decide to reveal their true intelligence to their parents, which changes their lives forever.

Slapstick, despite its title, has an overcast tone of sadness throughout as the main character pines for his sister after they’ve been separated. It’s this strong relationship that helps Wilbur and Eliza become developed characters, and as they journey through a post apocalyptic, Vonnegutian world we begin to root for their success, even if we know they are doomed from the start.

Some highlights include:

– The King of Michigan.

– Wilbur’s favorite saying, which is – “So why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the moooooooooooon?!”

– A book called, “The Cry of the Nocturnal Goatsucker.”

Slapstick, is not a bad choice for a first time Vonnegut reader, especially if you’re a general fan of Science Fiction. Unlike some of his later works, which really don’t stand alone, Slapstick, can be understood nearly the same way whether you’ve read all or none of Vonnegut’s other works. Slapstick is also one of the more straight up bizarre novels that Vonnegut ever wrote (which is saying quite a bit) so if you read this one and enjoy it, it’s a good bet that you’ve found your new favorite author.


9. – God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater