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Old 11-03-2001, 03:10 PM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Stockholm, Sweden, EU
Posts: 456
Not only does Kurt Vonnegut reuse a lot of themes - the horror of war, man's cruelty to man, and the unhappiness of America - and phrases, such as the famous
Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling donut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooon?
used in Slapstick and Slaughterhouse Five, or
Hold on, we may end up miles from here
from Slapstick and Hocus Pocus. He also reuses a lot of characters from book to book, which sometimes makes reading his books particularly rewarding when you realize you've come across a character you've read about previously.

The most famous of the recurring characters is probably the hack SF writer Kilgore Trout, perhaps inspired by Theodore Sturgeon. He is mentioned in many of KV's books as a little known science fiction writer who is usually published in pornographic magazines and books with pictures of "wide open beavers," although his stories have nothing to do with the accompanying photographs. There are lots of others too - Eliot Rosewater and Howard Campbell are the ones that come to mind most easily. Clearly, Vonnegut is a man who won't let a good thing go to waste, although he sometimes changes the characters slightly from book to book.

Has anybody ever tried to chart the recurring characters in Vonnegut's work, the way people do with comic books and Star Trek, and create a "Vonnegut universe"?
Old 11-03-2001, 11:33 PM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 177
I did, in my high school term paper.
Old 11-04-2001, 05:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Stockholm, Sweden, EU
Posts: 456
Interesting. Do you think Vonnegut has a sort of continuity thought out, or does he just reuse names he likes? I've noticed that characters with the same name often seem quite different from one book to another. For instance, the Diana Moon Glampers that Eliot Rosewater left re-appears as the "Handicapper General" in Harrison Bergeron (IIRC), and Wanda June re-appears in The Big Space Fuck, despite being patently dead in the play.
Old 01-01-2011, 09:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 1
Kurt Vonnegut had a strange genius

Characters reflect in Vonnegut's novels and stories, acting and reacting against one another, because he was mimicking the story styles of folk lore, using Chaucer as his base with the "Cauterbury Tales". Other works which influenced his style may may included Edgar Masters " Spoon River Anthology" and Sherwood Anderson's " Winesburg, Ohio".

Vonnegut was a writer who tried to illuminate that people did not grow up in isolation, they grew up in families and communities..they interacted with one another, they helped and hindered one another, and the past and future were ever present in the present, and that this reality affected how they responded to the world they met each day and the situations they found themselves in. Kurt Vonnegut repeated characters through all his books and stories, and their on going interactions enriched the broader story and the characters themselves, because they were not always presented in the same way from story to story...much as the story of your grandfather's life might be different as told by you, your father, or his comrades, or the people who knew him in his boyhood.

So when you read a Vonnegut story and you see a reference to Wanda June or Kilgore Trout, you are seeing a character revealed from the perspective of the protagonist of that story, and the secondary characters are most likely going to have their own story told at some point...much like the Cauterbury Tales or Winesburg Ohio.

The body of the author's work tells the story, not each individual story. Thanks for making me think of Kurt Vonnegut today, what a beautiful story teller he was, what a humane mind he had
Old 01-01-2011, 07:04 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Anaheim, CA
Posts: 28,112
Abstract Expressionist painter Rabo Karabekian made a rather moving speech in Breakfast of Champions, and reiterated some of the ideas in that speech in his autobiography, Bluebeard.
Old 01-01-2011, 08:19 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Bear Flag Republic
Posts: 42,546
I always just chalked it up to Vonnegut being a hack who never met a half-baked idea he didn't want to beat into the ground.

Your mileage may vary.

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