Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him, in the words of The New York Times, as "a true artist" with the publication of Cat's Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, "one of the best living American writers." Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.
Among the most original stylists in America today, Vonnegut vents his disgust and moral outrage with government and humanity and the entire universe in yet another scathing social/political/philosophical satire. Set in the year 2001, but jumping over the last half of the 20th century, Hocus Pocus takes on an absurdist's perspective of human history. Protagonist Eugene Debs Hartke, West Point graduate, Vietnam vet, college professor, educator of the disabled and the illiterate, is awaiting trial for a crime initially unspecified. Until this time, Hartke has diligently and good-naturedly participated in whatever was expected of him, including involvement in the evacuation of American personnel from Saigon. At one point, however, he calculates the remarkable fact that he has killed exactly as many people as he has had sex with, a coincidence that causes him to doubt his atheism. The narrative is composed of short takes in which Hartke's thoughts skip between the inconsequential and the profound, giving Vonnegut occasion to interject interesting tidbits of information, scientific and historical and otherwise. The cumulative power of the novel is considerable, revealing Vonnegut at his fanciful and playful best. First serial to Penthouse; BOMC selection; QPB featured alternate. (Sept.)
Praise for Hocus Pocus
"Hocus Pocus is the most topical, realistic Vonnegut novel to date...he is a satirist with a heart, a moralist with a whoopee cushion."--Jay McInerney, The New York Times "Vonnegut's best novel in years--funny and prophetic, yes, and fabulous too, as cunning as Aesop and as gloomy as Grimm...He's up to something special in Hocus Pocus."--The Nation "A king-sized relief valve of comedy. Every bit as humorous as Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions or any of Vonnegut's other comic masterpieces...Vonnegut evokes the cynical chortle, the knowing grin, the inner laughter that soothes our troubled reflections...He's mad as hell and laughing all the way to the apocalypse."--Playboy "His voice is one of the most original in popular American fiction...sharp-toothed satire...truly hilarious...Hocus Pocus is ample proof that his literary prestidigitation can still amuse and delight."--San Francisco Chronicle "Irresistible...Hocus Pocus is vintage Vonnegut, witty, startling, satiric...off-the-wall brilliance. Vonnegut is a true original. Hocus Pocus is not only poignant and provocative, it is outrageous and very funny indeed. If Luck and Time are the two prime movers of the Universe, we are lucky in our time to have a Kurt Vonnegut to prod us, scold us, astonish us, unnerve us, entertain us and make us laugh."--The Cleveland Plain Dealer