As he did in Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut begins Slapstick: or Lonesome No More with a personal reference.
Vonnegut tells of flying with his brother to their uncle’s funeral and missing their sister who died from cancer two days after her husband died in a accident, leaving four children to be brought up by family members.
That, and seeing a performance of Tosca, starts him imagining a novel in the spirit of Laurel and Hardy who “did their best with every test.”
Slapstick is a series of loosely connected episodes about Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, M.D., age 100, currently one of three inhabitants of the Empire State Building (most other residents of Manhattan have been killed by plague) and former president of the United States.
Swain won the Presidency with the slogan “Lonesome No More” and instituted a program in which Americans were assigned to families identifiable by middle names consisting of a noun and a number.
Vonnegut’s absurd characters are no more real than a Laurel and Hardy sketch, but realism is not his point.
His characters are parables, zany to get your attention and direct it to a message:
“Human beings need all the relatives they can get—as possible donors or receivers not necessarily of love, but of common decency.”
Slapstick: or, Lonesome no more!
By Kurt Vonnegut. ©1976. 243 p.
1976 bestseller #7. My grade: B+
© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni