My second Vonnegut book.

September 7, 2011

I held this book in my hands several times before actually checking it out. Every time I’d wonder at the title, a phrase I’d heard so many times but never understood the full meaning of, I’d thumb through and look at the weird illustrations, also something I didn’t get. Something always stopped me from checking it out. Another book always overrode it, whether it was because of urgency, a better cover, whatever. I finally got it on a whim, knowing that I’d have to get one or two more books in of free reading before school would take over 24/7. At first, I was taken aback at the odd descriptions of “wide open beavers” and the like. I closed it after 30 pages and turned back to my laptop where everything was a bit more sane. I turned to the book again later that day and read more and more. And from there, I started loving it. Books and people are like, they both deserve a few chances if they doesn’t immediately capture you.

Excerpt #98:
People took such awful chances with chemicals and their bodies because they wanted the quality of their lives to improve. They lived in ugly places where there were only ugly things to do. They didn’t own doodley-squat, so they couldn’t improve their surroundings. So they did their best to make their insides beautiful instead. (72)

Excerpt #99:
“Trout was petrified there on Forty-second Street. It had give him a life not worth living, but I had also give him an iron will to live. This was a common combination on the planet Earth.”

Excerpt #100:
“God bless you,” said the manager. This was a fully automatic response many Americans had to hearing a person sneeze.
“Thank you,” sid Trout. Thus a temporary friendship was formed.

Excerpt #101
The driver got onto the subject of friends. He said it was hard for him to maintain friendships that meant anything because he was on the road most of the time. He joked about the time when he used to talk about his “best friends.” He guessed people stopped talking about best friends after they got out of junior high school.
He suggested that Trout, since Trout was in the combination aluminum storm window and screen business, had opportunities to build many lasting friendships in the course of his work. “I mean,” he said, “you get men working together day after day, putting up those windows, they get to know each other pretty well.”
“I work alone,” said Trout.
The driver was disappointed. “I assumed it would take two men to do the job.”
“Just one,” said Trout. “A weak little kid could do it without any help.”
The driver wanted Trout to have a rich social life so that he could enjoy it vicariously. “All the time,” he insisted, “you’ve got buddies you see after work. You have a few beers. You play some cards. You have some laughs.”
Trout shrugged.
“You walk down the same streets every day,” the driver told him. “You know a lot of people, and they know you, because it’s the same streets for you, day after day. You say, ‘Hello,’ and they say, ‘Hello, back. You call them by name. They call you by name. If you’re in a real jam, they’ll help you, because you’re one of ’em. You belong. They see you every day.”
Trout din’t want to argue about it.

Excerpt #102:
“Why would anybody in the business of highspeed transportation name his business and his trucks after buildings which haven’t moved an eighth of an inch since Christ was born?”
The driver’s answer was prompt. It was peevish, too, as though he thought Trout was stupid to have to ask a question like that. “He liked the sound of it. “Don’t you like the sound of it?”
Trout in order to keep things friendly. “Yes,” he said, “it’s a very nice sound.”

Trout sat back and thought about the conversation. He shaped it into a story, which he never got around to writing until he was an old, old man. It was about a planet where the language kept turning into pure music, because the creatures there were so enchanted by sounds. Words became musical notes. Sentences became melodies. They were useless as conveyors of information, because nobody knew or cared what the meanings of words were anymore.
So leaders in government and commerce, in order to function, had to invent new and much uglier vocabularies and sentence structures all the time, which would resist being transmuted to music.

Excerpt #103:
“The truck carrying Kilgore Trout was in West Virginia now. The surface of the state had been demolished by men and machinery and explosives in order to make it yield up its coal. The coal was mostly gone now. It had been turned into heat.
The surface of West Virginia, with its coal and trees and topsoil gone, was rearranging what was left of itself in conformity with laws of gravity. It was collapsing into all the holes which had been dug into it. Its mountains, which had once found it easy to stand by themselves were sliding into valleys now.
The demolition of West Virginia had taken place with the approval of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the State Government, which drew their power from the people.
Here and there an inhabited dwelling still stood.

He told Trout that people he’d heard of in the area who grabbed live copperheads and rattlesnakes during church services, to show how much they believed that Jesus would protect them.
“Takes all kinds of people to make up a world,” said Trout.

Trout marveled at how recently white men had arrived in West Virginia, and how quickly they had demolished it – for heat.
Now the heat was all gone, too – in outer space, Trout supposed. It had boiled water, and the steam had made steel windmills whiz around and around. The windmills had made rotors in generators whiz around and around. AMerica was jazzed with electricity for a while. Coal had also powered old-fashioned steamboats and choo-choo trains.
Kilgore Trout thought about the cries of steam whistles he had known, and about the destruction of West Virginia, which made their songs possible. He supposed that the heart-rending cries had fled into outer space, along with the heat. He was mistaken.
Like most science fiction writers, Trout knew almost nothing about science, was bored stiff by technical details. But no cry from a whistle had got very far from Earth for this reason: sound could only travel in an atmosphere, and the atmosphere of Earth relative to the planet wasn’t even as thick as the skin of an apple. Beyond that lay an all-but-perfect vacuum.
(123-127, excerpts)

Excerpt #104:
“It don’t seem right, though,” the old miner said to Trout, “that a man can own what’s underneath another man’s farm or woods or house. And any time the man wants to get what’s underneath all that, he’s got aright to wreck whats on top to get at it. The rights of the people on top of the ground don’t amount to nothing compared to the rights of the man who owns what’s underneath.”

Excerpt #105:
Dwayne and Francine made love in the Quality motor Court. Then they stayed in bed for a while. It was a water bed. Francine had a beautiful body. So did Dwayne. “We never made love in the afternoon before,” said Francine.
“I felt so tense,” said Dwayne.
“I know,” said Francine. “Are you better now?”
“Yes.” He was lying on his back. his ankles were crossed. His hands were folded behind his head. His great wang lay across his thigh like a salami. It slumbered now.
“I love you so much,” said Francine. She corrected herself. “I know I promised not to say that, but that’s a promise I can’t help breaking all the time.” The thing was: dwayne had made a pct with her that neither one of them was ever to mention love. Since Dwayne’s wife had eaten Drano, Dwayne never wanted to hear about love again. The subject was too painful.
Dwayne snuffled. It was customary for him to communicate by means of snuffles after sexual intercourse. The snuffles all had meanings which were bland: “That’s all right…forget it…who could blame you?” And so on.
“On Judgment Day, said Francine, “when they ask me what bad things I did down here, I’m going to have to tell them, ‘Well – there was a promise I made to a man I loved, and I broke it all the time. I promised him never to say I loved him.'”

Excerpt #106:
Oh, Mr. Trout,” nice Milo went on, there in Trout’s suite, “teach us to sing and dance and laugh and cry. We’ve tried to survive so long on money and sex and envy and real estate and football and basketball and automobiles and television and alcohol – on sawdust and broken glass!”
“Open your eyes!” said Trout bitterly. “Do I look like a dancer, a singer, am an of joy?” He was wearing his tuxedo now. It was a size too large for him. he had lost much weight since high school. His pockets were crammed with mothballs. They bulged like saddlebags.
“Open your eyes!” said Trout. “would a man nourished by beauty look like this? You haven oohing but desolation and desperation here, you say? I bring you more of the same!”
“My eyes are open,” said Milo warmly, “and I see exactly what I expect to see. I see a man who is terribly wounded – because he has dared to pass through the fires of truth to the other side, which we have never seen. And then he has come back again – to tell us about the other side.” (239-240)

Excerpt #107:
All of us were stuck to the surface of a ball, incidentally. The planet was ball-shaped. Nobody knew why we didn’t fall off, even though everybody pretended to kind of understand it. 
The really smart people understood that one of the best ways to get rich was to own a part of the surface people had to stick to. (247) 


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