On Paper: Cards, Letters,& Horace’s Invitation to a Dinner Party

Kurt Vonnegut often wrote about the non-linear nature of time. He  meditated on this in his superb novels Slaughterhouse Five and Timequake.  But  Kurt, like the  time-traveling hero of Slaughterhouse Five, couldn’t escape  World War II.  Both were imprisoned by the Germans in Dresden during the fire-bombing in 1945. 

When we look back from this threatening spring, what will we remember?  Many of us will recall a more distant past.  A childhood  spent running freely around a green neighborhood?  Bicycling to the quarry for a picnic and an illicit swim?  Reading  Greek poetry  in a studio apartment while waiting for my boyfriend?  There was reading, there was bicycling, there was marriage, there were movies (sitting through the credits–how pompous!),  jobs good and bad, yearning humanly for something–always.

This spring of 2020 is indecipherable, a change from what I can only call the liberal arts life.  In these weeks of the pandemic, probably months, possibly a year, we are alternately calm and fearful.  We stay home sensibly and revert to the quiet life, but the news is agonizing (so avoid it).  Of course there is a new lightness as we walk through clean air during a beautiful spring, a Climate Change spring–but soothing nonetheless.

Paper, notebooks, books, letters, bills, junk mail, Christmas cards:  paper marked our days in the 20th century.  We loved the mail, if we had no responsibility to pay the bills.   “Get the mail, please,” my mother said, and sighed because there was”nothing good.” Sometimes she worried about the bills, even lacked money for the grocery store.  So, already anxious at age 9,  I wrote an altruistic little  “book” for her (we shall call it “Pennies from Heaven”).  The characters found pennies around the house for their mom.  I adorably pasted actual coins in my illustrations in the book.  I was sure it would be enough to buy groceries.

But cards were our favorite thing. Holiday cards!  My mother also taught me to write Thank You notes.  How I loved the little cards!  I don’t know if anyone writes them anymore.  And then I wrote to my pen-pal, Pam from Australia, whose letters were curiously disappointing. My later correspondence with friends in adulthood was much more satisfying–in fact, delightful, But a few years ago,  I threw out a whole drawer of letters. 

I love the Mitfords’ letters!

I have always been fond of letters in literature–Charles Lamb, Virginia Woolf, the Mitford sisters-but I especially enjoy letters written in ancient times. There is a whole genre of invitations written in the form of poems.  Most famous is Catullus’s simple poem (Catullus 13), which you may know.  It begins with the line, “You will dine well if you bring your own.” ( I thought I wrote a translation of the poem at one of my blogs, but can’t find it.)

I don’t have this translation, but I love the cover.

Horace’s dinner invitation to his friend Torquatus (Epistle I.5) is longer, more complex, and sometimes philosophical.  Here are the comic opening lines:

“If you are don’t mind reclining on a scruffy couch/ and eating a dinner of herbs in a cheap dish/ I will await you at home, Torquatus, today at sunset./  You will drink unremarkable wine, which was bottled  six years ago / in Petrinum between marshy Minturnae and Sassinium./ If you have something better, send for it or submit to my orders./The hearth shines  brightly for you and the humble seats are spic-and-span.”

What could be better than cheap wine and greens!  This is my prose translation “version,” with a few slight changes to make it readable.

I think we’ll have greens for dinner tonight…

I hope you’ll have a great social-distancing dinner of wine and greens yourself!

Falling Asleep During Yoga

The universe

Where are we now? The Midwest, the United States, Earth, the Milky Way, the Universe, as we wrote in our lock-and-key diaries from Woolworth’s.  We are utterly serene, because we regularly fall asleep  while lying down on the floor during our yoga Savasana (Corpse Pose).  I can’t help it…you’re not supposed to…but I’m so tired.

The pandemic is exhaussting. Never underestimate the stupidity of the human race.  Some Republican governors plan  to “open” coronavirus-riddled states in May.  The malls, the restaurants…very smart!

Let me quote a tweet of protest from one midwesterner: 

“Kim Reynolds [the governor] is a threat. Iowa is leading the nation in the spread of covid. Highest rate of new cases. We’re 2-3 weeks from a peak. But yes, let’s reopen the state.”

(I’m not sure the tweeter’s stats are right–but I can verify the numbers in the midwest are heinous.)

.I…just…can’t…care…anymore.  I sit with my head tilted up watching a perfect azure sky identical to the perfect azure sky I grew up with.  Then we sat on canvas lawn chairs, now it’s Adirondack chairs or plastic.  But the same cottony clouds…the same radiant rising crescent moon… similar people drinking iced tea or beer in their yards…  It could be any time really.

So at least we still have a beautiful spring.

As for reading, I finished Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, one of my favorite novels. I always see Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder, because of the superb mini-series. Now I’m thinking of rereading A. N. Wilson’s Lampitt Chronicles (sort of a cross between Anthony Powell and H. G. Wells’ realistic comic novels) but of course can find only two of the five books on my shelves–and neither is the first.  I do like the cover of the second novel,  A Bottle in the Smoke, though.

And  here’s some fun  news:  I  “altered” a tie-cardigan by cutting off the ties, which were always getting caught in doors.    Now I call it my “post-yoga hygge cardigan.”   Can I sell it on e-bay?

Homework at the End of the World: Lockdown, Classics, and Snakes and Ladders

Turn on, tune in, drop out.  But we’re doing this through literature, not drugs.

It’s time to read the classics. We’ve got a lot of homework at the end of the world!  My copy of Don Quixote is on the night table, but I am also finishing up Anthony Burgess’s Enderby books, which are comic classics in their own right. 

And then there’s the Latin literature.  Much of it is comic, too.  

Why, you may wonder, would anyone want to read Roman comedy during lockdown?  Well, it’s fun for me, and it’s funny.  But I do love classics in other languages too,  and am thrilled that so many people are turning to the great books. According to essays  in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post, people are reading War and Peace, Middlemarch, and The Decameron.  And sales are up at Penguin, according to The Guardian.

In the fifth (or is it sixth?) week of lockdown, the number of coronavirus cases here has climbed from seven to 5,000.  All I can say is, it is terrifying, but thank God we live in a sparsely-populated state.  Every day we wake up and are glad we’re well, but at the same time,  What fresh hell is this?    

I have a bookish discovery.  LET ME RECOMMEND THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF,  Doris Langley Moore’s A Game of Snakes and Ladders, first published in 1938 and recently reissued by Furrowed Middlebrow. This is one of the most charming novels I have read, and I will certainly read it again and again.  A great theater novel!

At the end of World War I, Lucy and Daisy, actresses in a theatrical company, have become casual friends:   Lucy, a  witty, charming vicar’s daughter,  got the job for Daisy, a lower-class woman stranded in Australia after a bad marriage.  When the company arrives in Egypt, the social gap between the two  widens: Daisy absorbs herself in an affair with the rich owner of the company, while Lucy desperately saves money to return to London.  Lucy loses her money, her looks, and job after a long illness, mainly because of a decision of Daisy’s.  You will love Lucy’s story–she never loses hope but is stranded for years in Egypt–and you will  admire Moore’s graceful, dazzling prose.  

This is the best of the three books I’ve read by Moore, who was a novelist, a Byron scholar, and founder of a fashion museum.

The Plague Notebook: Derealization in SF Time

Earth Day, April 22, 1970

All too easily, this could be a science fiction novel.

“You don’t necessarily develop a vaccine that is safe and effective against every virus. Some viruses are very, very difficult when it comes to vaccine development – so for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find ways to go about our lives with this virus as a constant threat,”  said David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College, London, and an envoy for the World Health Organization on Covid-19 (The Guardian).

We don’t see the larger picture when we look at the pandemic.  We say cheerfully, “They WILL find a vaccine soon.” And some happy people look on the “bright side,” the decrease of pollution.  They believe our society will carry this ecological awareness into “the new normal.”  

I love the new clean air and the new quiet–I see the beauty of nature more than ever–but I suspect  Paradise will be lost-again. People will get back in their cars, trucks, SUVs, and hybrids (the compromise quasi-ecological vehicle affordable to the few) and drive doorstep-to-doorstep more than ever, running their engines constantly at drive-throughs.  

Accidents and politics are interwoven.  One gathers that Covid-19 was an accident transmitted by bats to live animals in a Wuhan market  (ugh!) and then to humans.  There is plenty to despair about with such a horrifying accident, and we have read about the deforestation and urban sprawl that led to greater proximity to wild animals and thence the virus.   

And then there is overpopulation, as we have known at least since the mid-20th century, one of the greatest causes of pollution and a deterrent to sustainability and life on earth.  And so the plague: accident, politics, conspiracy theories, and a kind of I Am Legend a wound up in a big SF novel (with a bad plot!).

There are three science fiction books I recommend to help cope with our pollution-created crises:  Frank Herbert’s ecological masterpiece, Dune (which I posted abut at my old blog Mirabile Dictu here and here), John Brunner’s The Sheep Look up (which I posted about here), and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest (not at all a good book, but an ecolological novel)!  

How Did We Go Through Seventeen Glasses in a Day?

Glasses and cups were all over the kitchen.  I counted them: seventeen. I mean, life is marvelous, isn’t it?  The number of dirty cups?  Mirabile dictu, and all that. 

In the middle of Covid-19 plague, my friend is temporarily crippled in an accident, and all I’m thinking about is keeping up with the dishes.   I calculate that I used seven of them. There was the tea, later the water, then the orange juice, then flavored water, then the coffee, etc…..  She used the rest.  And she insists on a new glass every time she drinks.  (“It’s sanitary.”)

She suggested, “Bring bottled drinks and I’ll drink out of the bottle.” 

“Maybe paper cups?”

Friends are splitting shifts to help out, and I admit I’m a lousy nurse.  I’m bewildered to find myself early in the morning sitting in the hospital atrium while she has a brain scan. Only patients can enter the neurology office.  I take off my mask in the atrium, because honestly nobody is around.   Did she take off her mask for the brain scan?  I forgot to ask.

Two hours later, she emerges from the elevator.  “I hope my brain is okay,” she says sadly.  “Do you have my book?”

And then–yup, we’re back on the bus, wearing masks and gloves. It’s free!  But you  need to use a ton of sanitizer the minute you get off, and wash your hands thourghly at home–and possibly shower.  

She went off the pain pills today.  Whatever marvelous benefits other people acquire from pain pills seem to make her sick.  “Everything hurts!”

“I know, I know.  More Tylenol?” 

And so she’s bundled up in a blanket, hygge-style, listening to rock music.  We decide the Most Inappropriate 1960s Song for 2020 is “Touch Me” by the Doors.

Yeah! Come on, come on, come on, come on
Now touch me, babe
Can’t you see that I am not afraid?
What was that promise that you made?
Why won’t you tell me what she said?
What was that promise that you made?

The Doors, 1968

She applies ice packs to various parts of her body.  I wash the 17 glasses and cups.

The good thing is:  we don’t have coronavirus. 

And the other good thing:  I never wanted to be a professional nurse.

New Yorker cartoon, March 23, 2020

Are You There, God?  It’s Us, the Humans

Milton’s Paradise Lost, illustration “Satan Exulting over Eve” by William Blake

We stood in the yard under the moon.  Our conversation with God was less poignant than Margaret’s in the 1970 Judy Blume book, Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret.  I imagine Margaret was more respectful, though I admit I haven’t read the book.  

I began the skirmish.  “I wish you were dead, God.”

My friend picked up the ball with “See you in hell, God.”

Okay, we’re women.  We try to look on the bright side.  Coronavirus? Bring it on!  We can stay indoors indefinitely and disinfect doorknobs–until we can’t. The mad washing of hands goes on, but we’re done wiping down stainless steel fixtures and tea kettle handles.  Our contacts with carriers are limited, and, frankly, I would rather read my book than be a slave to Lysol. This is not to say I’m perusing the most challenging books when I’m not wiping the counter.   Nope, I’m rereading “comfort” books:  Milton’s Paradise Lost Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. 

I semi-prayed at first, but gave up.  It’s obnoxious to take the Name of the Lord in Vain, but I envision the Miltonic God of Paradise Lost and feel angry.  I curse the god of Clorox.  On the other hand, I admire Jesus in Paradise Regained. so maybe I should reread that instead.

Don’t we deserve to curse?  My friend was hospitalized with a broken arm, two broken ribs, and fractured vertebrae.  Alone in the hospital, she begged me to visit.  No visitors were allowed because of coronavirus. 

Yes, I understand, but I also begged the nurse to find some way we could care for her at home. That was not possible at the time.   

And so she’s finally out, and we’re cursing in the back yard.

Are you there, God?  It’s us, the humans.

The Plague Notebook:  A Privileged Boredom & Lockdown Reading

Staying home is a small price to pay for safety. It is like having a bodyguard, only it’s not human:  a house, a rented room, an apartment, a geodesic dome, whatever shelter we have.  Here’s a typical day in the spring of Covid-19:  we read our books, check the news, watch TV, check the news, clean the house, check the news. It is a privileged boredom. Think of the homeless.  Think of the emptying food banks.

But everyone is in shape, finally! Whenever we’re claustrophobic, we go outside.  The parks, of course, are closed, so when a friend snuck into an empty park to play Frisbee,  the police sent him/her home. And here’s a  very strange story: a mall outside of Omaha claims it will open next week.  I joked, “We’ll be there.” 

Business Insider says, “More than 13,000 Americans died last week from COVID-19, surpassing past weekly averages for other common causes of death like heart disease and cancer.”  

Let us hope coronavirus goes away soon.

Fortunately there are still good books to read. 

ANTHONY BURGESS’S ENDERBY NOVELS.  This quartet of comical novels, Inside Mr. Enderby, Enderby Outside, The Clockwork Testament, and Enderby’s Dark Lady,  is delightfully quirky.  I urge you to read them if you need light relief.  Burgess tells the story of Enderby, a dyspeptic English poet who writes poetry in the lavatory, frequently using the toilet paper roll as a pencil holder and writing on toilet paper.   In the first novel, he is fatally seduced away from his lavatory writing by an ambitious woman, Vesta Bainbridge, whom he unhappily marries–it ends badly.  In  the second novel, Outside Enderby, which I just reread, he has supposedly been cured of poetry by a psychiatrist:  he has metamorphosed into a bartender named Hogg.  When a pop star, Yod Crewsley,  celebrates publishing a book of poetry at a party at the bar, Enderby is astonished to realize the poems are plagiarized:  he had composed them while living with Vesta, who is now married to the pop star.  And then a disgruntled former manager shoots Crewsley, leaving Enderby with the smoking gun.  His flight from the police to Tangier is hialrious, and at least his poetic muse speaks again in the muddle that follows.

The third book is equally funny, as I remember, but I am pretty sure I haven’t read the fourth. It is Burgess’s convoluted, poetic language that makes Enderby stand out from other satires about writers.  And, let’s face it, what is a funnier subject than a poet?  I do love Enderby.

Enderby’s poems are stunning, too.

LOUISE ERDRICH’S new novel, THE NIGHT WATCHMAN,  is partly political, partly a poignant tribute to the resilience of American Indian identity.  Inspired by the life of  Erdrich’s grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, a chief of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, it tells the story of  a tribe in crisis and their political organization to prevent Congress from disbanding them and taking their land in the 1950s.   

There are two main threads: the hero, Thomas Wazhashk, a night watchman at a factory, organizes the fight against termination. Thomas is charming, funny, shrewd, and spiritual:  he has encounters with a snowy owl, a ghost, and spirtis in the sky.   The other thread follows Pixie (Patrice), Thomas’s niece, a very smart high school graduate who is a skilled worker at a factory and determined to rise through the ranks.   But life is a struggle:  she supports her mother and younger brother financially, and plays the masculine role in the family, chopping wood, hunting game, and contriving to clothe and fee them.  The whole family grieves over the disappearance of Patrice’s older sister Vera, who has disappeared in Minneapolis. The fight against Congress and the search for Vera are skillfully intertwined.

Gorgeous, lyrical writing, resilient characters, and a narrative interwoven with magic realism, ghosts, and unexpected events.

The Bag Lady of Reference Books: When Covers Fall Off Books

Our English dictionary no longer has a cover.

In times of crisis, I get out my reference books.  There’s always something I want to look up. 

The problem is, I use them a great deal.   Last week the binding of my Greek dictionary snapped when I was desperately looking up an archaic form of an irregular verb.  The roughness with which I attacked the pages knocked the cover right off.  And that, I thought, is why I’d better ditch Sophocles’s Philoctetes for The Odyssey–though I did find the weird verbs, so I should stick to Philoctetes, more appropriate for our time. (Epic is simpler than tragedy:  I am reviving my Greek in honor of coronavirus lockdown.  It’s been five years… )

I asked Mr. Nemo,  “Can you tape this back on?”

“There’s nothing to tape it to.”

“Bummer,” I said.  I like to use old slang I thought silly when it was current.  I started using it recently–a response to Covid-19, I suppose.  I am often “freaked out,”  everything is a “bummer,”  and I am “into” Tylenol and vitamins.  If it weren’t for lockdown, you’d think you were in a  novella where everyone wore platform shoes, read Vonnegut, and listened to Frank Zappa.  

This edition of Horace is held together with tape.

Mr. Nemo got out the super glue, which is a good temporary fix.  At our house, we have trouble keeping the covers on our reference books and, for some reason, poetry books. Part of the problem may be that I carry them in shopping bags from room to room

 The books began to lose their covers in the 1990s, when our most charming cat clawed off the cover of a Webster’s (English) dictionary. She was so sweet we couldn’t be mad.  The covers of our Greek and Latin grammars fell apart on their own; they are bound with scotch tape.  An old edition of Wheelock is held together with duct tape.  

This is not a serious problem, of course.  The pandemic is a serious problem–people are sick, people are dying. 

I’m lucky to have reference books.  Who knows when the libraries will open?

 Some days are better than others.  Hope you’re keeping well.

What Next? Lockdown on a Rainy Day

I long to be outdoors, though it is cold and rainy.  I made it as far as the stoop.

And now  I empathize with the friend who told me, “I’m an indoors person, so lockdown makes no difference.” 

Indoors?  We’re all indoors now.  But she confessed for the first time to being an indoors person the day I knocked at her door at  6 a.m.  We’d planned to take a bike ride in the country.  With great difficulty, I coaxed her out of her apartment.  On the way to the lake, we stopped at a tiny country church.  No idea what denomination, but I was enthralled by the service.  

  Less enthralled, she refused to ride on until she’d smoked a cigarette in the graveyard. “Because I’m an indoors person and I’m outdoors.”

Oddly, standing on the stoop under the awning today, I wanted to smoke a cigarette.   Perhaps I saw too many photos of Karl Ove Knausgaard smoking when I was reading My Struggle last week. 

Everything is boring on a rainy day when there’s nowhere to go except the convenience store.  So here are some things I’ve tried.  And I’m sure you’ve tried them, too.  What next?

A London policeman confronting a woman about sitting on a bench outside rather than exercising.

Want to watch a cabin fever video?   This strange video was filmed by a woman who was confronted by the London police for sitting on a park bench. They said she had to exercise if she were outdoors, and she said she was mentally exercising.  Now that’s cabin fever. 

Want to go to the movies? Sure, sit down in your living room and watch one.  Why is it not the same?  We have  treats (one chocolate egg each), and we enjoyed the comic film we picked,  Local Hero.  But the whole event, such as it was, seemed drab.  It’s rainy!  We want to go someplace besides Target! 

How about TV?  I’ve watched everything, including the excellent new season of Ozark, the bookstore comedy,  Black Books,  and the Modern Family finale… and now there’s nothing left.

Sew a mask?  I broke down and ordered one on Etsy. But if it becomes the fashion, I’ll host a sewing bee. And not virtual… it will have to be a circle of two, maybe three.  And somebody has to know how to sew.

Knit blankets for the Animal Shelter?  My own knitting is erratic, so I love the animal blankets you get when you adopt a pet.  I use an especially pretty one as a doily. Surely a little pet blanket would be easier to knit than the tea cozy I once made.

Write a dystopian coronavirus novel?   Dystopian novels are  banned at my house, because they seem too real nowadays.  But it will keep you busy if you’re imagining the worst.  Just open a notebook and write.  

Bake bread?   I used to picture myself as an Earth mother.  Alas, I don’t bake bread or read the Whole Earth Catalogue.   But last week I made chocolate chip cookies, which anyone can make.  And then you dole them out over the week–just don’t weigh yourself ever again..

Paint?  We painted two walls of the bedroom and then took a break.    Ladders, tarps, paint, rollers…  fun, fun, fun. It’s time to finish walls 3 and 4.

Board games? I wish we could go to Barnes and Noble and buy a new game.  Scrabble, Monopoly, Clue:  they’re exhausting.  We could memorize our dictionary, I guess, and improve our Scrabble.  

Transcendental meditation?  Kurt Vonnegut thought it a harmless sop for the middle class, though his wife and daughter loved it, and he admitted they were serene. What’s the harm?   Maybe it’s time for me to sit cross-legged and say a mantra.  I can make up my own mantra, as can any blogger or writer.

Hope you’re feeling well.  AND HOW ARE YOU PASSING THE TIME?  

On Reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Nonfiction: Transcendental Meditation & Politics

Years ago, after my husband helped his parents move into a condo, he brought home a boxed set of Vonnegut that had belonged to his siblings.  The girls had, rather touchingly, divided the books and inscribed their names, along with the dates of their graduation, on the flyleaf.   When I came across this set the other day, I intended to read  Breakfast of Champions, but the cover fell off, so so I read Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons instead.  (In case you want to know what the title means, it refers to concepts in his novel Cat’s Cradle.  My post is here.)

Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons, published in 1974,  is a brilliant collection of essays, magazine pieces, and speeches. And I have to say, Vonnegut’s witty, charming, sometimes indignant and angry nonfiction may be his best work. Vonnegut always sees the larger picture, which is difficult for the rest of us to do.  He is also a moralist, but not in a way that interferes with the pleasure of reading. 

In my favorite essay, “Yes, We Have No Nirvana,” he manages to be both sympathetic and sarcastic about Transcendental Meditation.  His wife and eighteen-year-old daughter practiced it enthusiastically, so he investigated it for Esquire in 1968.   At the Maharishi’s  press conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Vonnegut finds the Maharishi likable, even adorable, but does not believe in the technique.  He notes its appeal to celebrities like Mia Farrow and the Beatles, and the astounding publicity and media attention. While Vonnegut was in Cambridge, Mia Farrow was initiated by the Maharishi in his hotel room; Vonnegut notes that his wife and daughter “had to make do with a teacher in the apartment of a Boston painter and jazz musician who meditates.”

Like Vonnegut, I was unwilling to pay money for a mantra, and some of my friends walked out of the lecture in disbelief when they learned they had to pay. According to  Vonnegut, who deems himself “too lazy” to  meditate, one must first attend boring lectures, be interviewed by the meditation teacher, and then bring gifts of fruit, flower, and a fee to the teacher to complete the process and get a mantra.

Vonnegut thinks it is harmless but  a sop for the middle class.  He writes, “This new religion (which-is-not-a-religion-but-a-technique) offers tremendous pleasure, opposes no institutions or attitudes, demands no  sacrifices or outward demonstrations of virtue, and is risk free.  It will sweep the world as the planet dies–as the planet is surely dying–of poisoned air and water.”

So much of the charm of this collection has to do with Vonnegut’s style and quirky criticism.  In “Excelsior!  We’re Going to the Moon.  Excelsior,” he expresses cynicism about the importance of  the moon landing and believes the money could be better spent on cleaning up “the smoke and the sewage and trash”  on Earth  and disposing of military weapons.  In “Why They Read Hesse,” he writes about the romantic appeal to the young of Hermann Hesse’s romantic novels, which became best-sellers  in the ’60s and ’70s. 

 Let me leave you with a quote from one of the best essays,  “In a Manner That Must Shame God Himself”(Harper’s Magazine). Vonnegut imagines the thoughts of visitor from another planet on  the American people in 1972.

“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people do not acknowledge this.  They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.

“Both imaginary parties are bossed by Winners.  When Republicans battle Democrats, this much is certain:  Winners will win.

“The Democrats have been the larger party in the past–because their leaders have not been as openly contemptuous of Losers as the Republicans have.

“Loser can join imaginary parties.  Losers can vote.”

Really glad I read this book.  A great way to rediscover Vonnegut.