Monday, October 8, 2007

Jailbird (Kurt Vonnegut)

Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut
Dial Press Trade Paperback :: 1999 :: 320 pp.

For the Unread Authors Challenge, Book #1.

I picked this up because Galapagos and Cat's Cradle had already been checked out of the library, and I very much enjoyed it. It basically follows a "Harvard man" in his first days out of jail for his involvement in the Watergate scandal; the biggest preoccupation is his betrayal of an old friend during the McCarthy era. He has only loved four women, and he mentions each of them.

I felt quite off-balance reading this short little book, which didn't surprise me, given what I've heard of its author. I enjoyed the snappy humor, particularly when directed at the concept of the "Harvard man" ("I've heard you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much") -- I'm always, narcissistically, intrigued by literary portrayals of my venerable school -- and I liked the portrayal of the central character, who was very fully-developed and human and kind of crazy.

I wonder if I should've started with one of the classics. If I had read Jailbird out of context I would not, despite its dealings with major complications in American history, have immediately pegged it as an Important Book. Next I'll read Slaughterhouse 5 or Cat's Cradle. But I will certainly continue to read Vonnegut's work.

In Summary: A solid read.


Trish said...

Haven't read anything by him and haven't really even heard too much. Hmm...not in a hurry either. :)

Kristen said...

Yeah, I don't think my review will have anyone rushing out to the bookstore to buy Jailbird. :) But a lot of my friends were really into him in high school, so I was curious.