★ ★ ★
We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut | Vanguard Press | October 2012 | Hardcover $19.99
Called “our finest black-humorist” by The Atlantic Monthly, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Now his first and last works come together for the first time in print, in a collection aptly titled after his famous phrase, We Are What We Pretend To Be. In this fiction collection, published in print for the first time, exist Vonnegut’s grand themes: trust no one, trust nothing; and the only constants are absurdity and resignation, which themselves cannot protect us from the void but might divert.
I was lucky enough to win a copy of We Are What We Pretend to Be by Kurt Vonnegut from a giveaway at Book Riot. It is actually 2 books in 1: his first novella Basic Training + his final novel If God Were Alive Today + an intro by the author’s daughter, Nanette Vonnegut. Basic Training was never actually published, and Vonnegut didn’t get a chance to finish If God Were Alive Today before he passed away in 2007.
I think I enjoyed Nanette’s introduction more than either of the actual stories, which is unfortunate because I count Vonnegut as one of my favorite authors. Neither of the stories were actually bad, but neither of them were anywhere near the quality of his other works — and that isn’t surprising. These stories were never published in the first place because they weren’t really ready for publication. I guess the novelty/nostalgia factor is supposed to make up for that now, for Vonnegut fans who are obviously never otherwise going to get new works out of him because, y’know, he’s dead.
I caught glimpses of the author’s budding genius in Basic Training, but it is definitely in need of some editing (which I suspect the publisher was reluctant to do, and I can’t really lay blame for that). And If God Were Alive Today has the makings of something truly profound, but I found it very, very obvious that it was unfinished (and, again, in need of more refined editing, but then it would be, being unfinished and all).
Overall, I’m glad I got a chance to read it and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to lend it out, but I wouldn’t recommend this to Vonnegut virgins as an introduction to his works.
- Interview with Nanette Vonnegut at The Rumpus
- Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
- Goodreads page for We Are What We Pretend to Be
Publication information: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Literary Trust. We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works. New York: Vanguard Press, 2012. Print.
Source: Giveaway from Book Riot
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