Apr 30, 2008, 10:17AM

Vonnegut's Armageddon

A new collection of unpublished material shows one of the most distinctive writers of the 20th century finding his voice through a diverse collection of essays, speeches, rough drafts, and artwork.

"Armageddon in Retrospect, like many of Vonnegut’s collections, is a smattering of different things. Speeches, essays, letters, fiction, an introduction by the author’s son and color plates of the elder Vonnegut’s artwork fill this relatively slim volume’s 200-odd pages.

No chronology of any sort is provided, but most of the nonfiction and art collected in Armageddon seem a bit more recent than the fiction. Many of the short stories appear to be extremely rough drafts and false starts to Slaughterhouse-Five, the 1968 novel that would catapult Vonnegut to literary fame.

Dealing with Vonnegut’s experience as a prisoner of war during the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II, these stories show traces of the experimentation that would eventually yield the revolutionary Slaughterhouse-Five. Although none of these stories pack either the literary or emotional punch of that novel, they do offer readers the chance to experience the gradual evolution of Vonnegut’s approach to the topic, and make Armageddon a fitting companion piece to the more mature Slaughterhouse.



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