Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut

This book is simply amazing. There are so many interesting elements to it that it would take paragraphs to describe, which if you read the reviews, has happened many times already. I will hit some of the highlights I enjoyed about it but this is a book I would easily recommend to almost all readers.

1. The style in which it is written. It is like a series of notes, written on scraps of paper. These are then organized into a structured story. It’s not a flowing, paragraph by paragraph narrative, rather it is like a series of coherent thoughts. It’s different and I enjoyed it because it gives the reader an opportunity to digest an idea in a bite.

2. Numerology. There is a lot of number play in the book. The author chooses to write one and two as 1 and 2 and you must pay attention to the numbers being thrown around because there is a pay off at the end for those who do. In addition to the number game, those with exceptional memories will enjoy the same pay off for different reasons.

3. Cynicism present humorously. Although there are some bleak ideas presented here: war, death, madness and greed, they are presented in a satirical and humorous way that is uniquely Vonnegut and consistent with other of his work. I have read a few books lately that purported to be funny and weren’t. This one lives up to the black humor model.

4. Deep discussions about life that are thought provoking. War. Business. Commercial coup d’etat’s of nations. Prisons as industries. Mental health and madness. Sex. Death. All delivered with a satirical edge that despite the heaviness of the subject matter, never feels heavy.

5. Characters. The narrator is Eugene Debs Hartke and I like him. This is someone who I would get together with, procure some bottles of wine and enjoy listening to. He is an inadvertent rebel. From putting the perpetual time machine at the entrance to the library, to his teachings in class beyond his assigned subject matter. His various sexual escapades and affairs, his job at the prison and his appointment to Brigadier General just because of his former life in Vietnam and being in the right place at the wrong time. Even the lesser characters like the warden, are drawn clearly enough, despite their brevity, to be enjoyable.

Hocus Pocus is worth the investment of your time. If you are a Vonnegut fan, you won’t be disappointed.

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