Book Review: We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut

Usually, I find these kinds of collections waste of money and time, thinking the writer’s offspring are trying to cash in. But with We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works I have to admit the errors of my way. This was an eye-opening book. Something every writer should read to understand how development happens. Basic Training and If God Were Alive Today, the two novellas, couldn’t be further from each other. One is mild, pleasant, and conventional and the other is opinionated, crude, and Vonnegut.

You still see Vonnegut in Basic Training, in his naïve form, trying to piece together a story. I had problems reading it. It was too mundane and superficial for my taste. I marched through it, hoping to find a Vonnegut moment somewhere. I found him in the If God Were Alive Today, and he was angrier, more frustrated and vivid than I remembered. I’m not sure if it is the contrast with the first novella or did he pour all his resentment for the world into the protagonist, Gil Berman. Either way, I loved it. I was excited by Vonnegut’s strong voice, but thinking of him as a human being I rather would have granted him a harmonious passing. I guess we cannot escape our torments.

The foreword by Nanette Vonnegut’s daughter was a delight to read, and I recommend not to skip it, thinking the core of the book is in the novellas. Reading Nanette’s words gave a better insight into the text and what Vonnegut was like as a father and human being. Overall, I loved the book. I have nothing bad to say. Maybe that, it sucks to find out your premises stink. That I was too quick to judge and shouldn’t do that any longer. Live and learn and read Vonnegut!

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