Welcome to the Monkey House

vonnegutI’ve been listening to these Kurt Vonnegut stories on DVD after reading them many years ago. Some are cranky and clunky, but many hold up pretty well. The one I remembered was “Harrison Bergeron,” a story set in the future, where everyone is fully equal–the more extraordinary your talents, the greater the handicap you are issued by Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General.

FairnessWhile an exaggeration, we have often invoked Diana Moon Glampers when reading about some act of extreme political correctness, and I remembered the story pretty accurately.

But others I had forgotten, especially “All the King’s Horses,” a gem.  Revisiting these stories made me remember how thrilling it was to first read them and Cat’s Cradle, and Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Robert Stone’s Flag for Sunrise. All bleak, alienated, heroic, American novels.

It’s hard to find a novel this good these days. I’ve been sorely disappointed by Subtle Bodies, Norman Rush’s new book. I loved Mating and Mortals, and his book of short stories, Whites. But this one, while the prose is captivating, seems to have stumbled into quicksand. Being a novelist is an increasingly challenging occupation, I guess. Any recommendations? I hate to have that feeling that I’ve read all the good books.

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