If you’ve been reading my book reviews, it’s probably starting to become apparent that I mostly read fiction novels. While I definitely prefer works of fiction, I do enjoy the occasional nonfiction book. This week’s Saturday Book Club review is dedicated to one of the works of nonfiction I read last year.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I rate all of the books I read based on the Netflix rating system. For those unfamiliar with this system:
One star = Hated it
Two stars = Didn’t like it
Three stars = Liked it
Four stars = Really liked it
Five stars = Loved it
Image courtesy of thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot.com.
Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions) by Kurt Vonnegut
I was worried I wouldn’t like this much at all because, as I mentioned, I generally don’t read a lot of nonfiction. I have several nonfiction books, but they’re mostly true crime with a few other things mixed in (most notably Marilyn Manson’s The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon and Stranger Than Fiction, and The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath).
I would say Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions) is most similar to Chuck Palahniuk’s Stranger Than Fiction, though by no means are they identical. Both books, however, feature essays by the authors discussing various experiences, opinions, etc. I loved Stranger Than Fiction when I read it years ago, and while I didn’t love Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions) in quite the same way, I really enjoyed it.
I tend to really like books that have very quotable lines (probably one of the many reasons I like Chuck Palahniuk so much), and this nonfiction Vonnegut had tons of them. I kept reading passages that made me stop and think, “I really like that!”
A few examples:
“This is what I find most encouraging about the writing trades: They allow allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.” p. xx (Preface)
“About astrology and palmistry: They are good because they make people feel vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm. Take a seemingly drab person born on August 3, for instance. He’s a Leo. He is proud, generous, trusting, energetic, domineering, and authoritative! All Leos are! He is ruled by the Sun! His gems are the ruby and the diamond! His color is orange! His medal is gold! This is a nobody?” p. 166 (Address to Graduating Class at Bennington College, 1970)
“I honestly believe, though, that we are wrong to think that moments go away, never to be seen again. This moment and every moment lasts forever.” p. 186 (Reflections on My Own Death)
“I am fascinated by the good and evil in myself and in everyone, and I can’t get anybody to talk about either one anymore. People are embarrassed for me.” p. 214 (Address at Rededication of Wheaton College Library, 1973)
Those are just a few examples. The book was very funny as well … I laughed aloud several times while reading, which is always refreshing.
A lot of the essays were on topics that I previously knew little or nothing about, which was great. For instance, there was an essay about Antone (Tony) Costa, who was accused of murdering several young women in Cape Cod in the late 60s/early 70s (and was apparently friends with Kurt Vonnegut’s daughter!). I really knew nothing about those murders and I typically enjoy reading true crime, so I found that essay especially interesting.
I would read this book again in the future. As for a rating, I would give it FOUR STARS. I wasn’t in love with it or anything, but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to someone interested in picking up a nonfiction book and/or book of essays.