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Armageddon in Retrospect: And Other New and Unpublished Writings on War and Peace

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To be published on the first anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut's death, Armageddon in Retrospect is a collection of twelve new and unpublished writings on war and peace, imbued with Vonnegut's trademark rueful humor.


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To be published on the first anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut's death, Armageddon in Retrospect is a collection of twelve new and unpublished writings on war and peace, imbued with Vonnegut's trademark rueful humor.

30 review for Armageddon in Retrospect: And Other New and Unpublished Writings on War and Peace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    War is a funny thing. That's what Vonnegut would have us believe. He is right. He also realizes that there is nothing funny about war. It's a conflicting juxtaposition and yet it is true. Armageddon in Retrospect sat in the to-be-read pile for a good long while. I haven't read much Vonnegut since school, when probably about 9 out of 10 Vonnegut readers read his work, but I do enjoy reading him. Nonetheless, I dreaded this. The title alone told me it would be dreary and the title, for the most War is a funny thing. That's what Vonnegut would have us believe. He is right. He also realizes that there is nothing funny about war. It's a conflicting juxtaposition and yet it is true. Armageddon in Retrospect sat in the to-be-read pile for a good long while. I haven't read much Vonnegut since school, when probably about 9 out of 10 Vonnegut readers read his work, but I do enjoy reading him. Nonetheless, I dreaded this. The title alone told me it would be dreary and the title, for the most part, didn't lie. That's not to say Vonnegut doesn't bring the funny. He almost always does, however, most of the stories compiled herein are about war, often about his experiences in Dresden. The bombing of Dresden in WWII was tragic. As much as Vonnegut tries to spin some bitter-sweet humor off of this topic, the bitterness always remains in the sour undercurrent. Starting with an interesting intro from his son, there's a speech, a letter from young Vonnegut to his family and about a dozen short stories. About half of those stories are about a captured prisoner or a people under a conquering army's subjugation. Apparently this was the sum of the author's wartime experience. Making sense of it all, coming to grips with this new reality and that of his own country's disregard for innocent life comprises much of the subject matter. It is essentially Slaughter House Five played out again in variation. One story, "The Unicorn Trap" steps well outside of the WWII setting, sending us back to peasant life in 1067 England. However, it's the same old, same old, this time with the Normans as conquerors. Armageddon in Retrospect was the first thing published after his death and that always rings morbid. The overall mood brings my rating down to 3 stars, but Vonnegut's superb writing and humor save the day, as usual, and so I'll go with 4 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    I was quietly moved by this collection, which I found to be very different from Vonnegut's better known works. For one thing, there's virtually no science fiction. For another, there's virtually no humor. Instead there are short stories in the vein of historical fiction, primarily focused on World War 2, each one crafted with care, each showing the folly of war. Each story is simple but potent. Since my own words seem too small to properly address the strength of Vonnegut's, I instead offer a I was quietly moved by this collection, which I found to be very different from Vonnegut's better known works. For one thing, there's virtually no science fiction. For another, there's virtually no humor. Instead there are short stories in the vein of historical fiction, primarily focused on World War 2, each one crafted with care, each showing the folly of war. Each story is simple but potent. Since my own words seem too small to properly address the strength of Vonnegut's, I instead offer a parable from The Principia Discordia. (Vonnegut has been canonized as a Discordian saint, Second Class, a lower rank than his own creation Saint Bokonon - a Brigadier Saint - fictional characters of course being more capable of perfection than their real-life counterparts) A SERMON ON ETHICS AND LOVE One day Mal-2 asked the messenger spirit Saint Gulik to approach the Goddess and request Her presence for some desperate advice. Shortly afterwards the radio came on by itself, and an ethereal female Voice said YES? "O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of Discord! Concubine of Confusion! O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my heart!" WHAT BOTHERS YOU, MAL? YOU DON'T SOUND WELL. "I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe." WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THAT, IF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO? "But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it." OH. WELL, THEN STOP. At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    There's a great introduction by Vonnegut's son & the book is read by Rip Torn, a favorite actor of mine. It's pretty interesting. The point of 'Sirens', as put forth by David in #18, seems to have been echoed by Vonnegut's son in a completely unrelated chat between the two shortly before Kurt's death. It's worth reading, if only for the intro. The first story was a speech he gave in 2007 & that seems to have set the tone. The stories so far are OK, but Vonnegut's Dresden horror stories There's a great introduction by Vonnegut's son & the book is read by Rip Torn, a favorite actor of mine. It's pretty interesting. The point of 'Sirens', as put forth by David in #18, seems to have been echoed by Vonnegut's son in a completely unrelated chat between the two shortly before Kurt's death. It's worth reading, if only for the intro. The first story was a speech he gave in 2007 & that seems to have set the tone. The stories so far are OK, but Vonnegut's Dresden horror stories made up most & got a bit old. He's very anti-war & continually points out it's stupid & horrible. There were a few 5 star stories that really put a face on the horrors of war perfectly, but most wandered about in a rather long-winded manner which didn't do the point any favors. The title story came last & had a couple of good or amusing points, but was a disappointment overall. Overall, typical Vonnegut & worth reading especially if you've liked his other works.

  4. 5 out of 5

    cory

    Quoting the author: "And now please note that I have raised my right hand. And that means that I'm not kidding, that whatever I say next I believe to be true. So here it goes: The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime wasn't our contribution to the defeat of the Nazis, in which I played such a large part, or Ronald Reagan's overthrow of Godless Communism, in Russia at least. The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizens Quoting the author: "And now please note that I have raised my right hand. And that means that I'm not kidding, that whatever I say next I believe to be true. So here it goes: The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime wasn't our contribution to the defeat of the Nazis, in which I played such a large part, or Ronald Reagan's overthrow of Godless Communism, in Russia at least. The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizens have maintained their dignity and self-respect, despite their having been treated by white Americans, both in and out of government, and simply because of their skin color, as though they were contemptible and loathsome, and even diseased." Quoting the author again: "If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is."

  5. 4 out of 5

    TheBookWarren

    4.75 Stars - There is a stillness to the way KV writes. A stillness that lingers, fades.. only to then return right when you least suspect it. Its this stillness that grabs me most of all. The sheer versatility of it, when broken down, especially in a collection such as these, is quite staggering and can be razor sharp or feather soft, for it is a weapon the author uses with deft touch, but always fatal in its aim of reader seduction. Not only is the aforementioned stillness used to perfection, 4.75 Stars - There is a stillness to the way KV writes. A stillness that lingers, fades.. only to then return right when you least suspect it. It’s this stillness that grabs me most of all. The sheer versatility of it, when broken down, especially in a collection such as these, is quite staggering and can be razor sharp or feather soft, for it is a weapon the author uses with deft touch, but always fatal in its aim of reader seduction. Not only is the aforementioned stillness used to perfection, but it even permeates the speech that has been included here (to great effect), in fact its more pungent than that, it’s scent lurks around every anecdote! I have read most of these twice some thrice, but I’m still taken aback by how striking each paragraph is, sentence by sentence the ease in which tone, expression, Subtly & nuance is portrayed can be quite infuriating. The horror of war is no foible entity, it’s grippingly dark & no one bereft of frontline experience can possibly ever even begin to align oneself with that if a soldier-in-combat, but when you read stories like these, that include such real-life horrors as the British citizen targeted air-raids of Dresden.. You do feel as tough you have come mightily close. This is the beauty & gift we are given by authors from the top-echelon of literature, such as Vonnegut.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    Vonneguts harrowing essay on the Dresden bombing, Wailing Shall Be in All Streets, is the highlight and centerpiece of this collection, and one of the best works of anti-war art Ive readsomething like the literary equivalent of Francisco Goyas Disasters of War series. This previously unpublished work is undated, but has the immediacy and urgency of an open wound. Dresden was the last major German city to escape bombing because there was nothing combative about it; it was a city of hospitals and Vonnegut’s harrowing essay on the Dresden bombing, “Wailing Shall Be in All Streets,” is the highlight and centerpiece of this collection, and one of the best works of anti-war art I’ve read—something like the literary equivalent of Francisco Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ series. This previously unpublished work is undated, but has the immediacy and urgency of an open wound. Dresden was the last major German city to escape bombing because there was nothing combative about it; it was a city of hospitals and refugees. Vonnegut, who hated his Nazi captors, nonetheless loved the city for its rich cultural past and pacific part in the war. “In February 1945, American bombers reduced this treasure to crushed stone and embers; disemboweled her with high-explosives and cremated her with incendiaries.” Vonnegut goes on to write: “It is with some regret that I here besmirch the nobility of our airmen, but boys, you killed an appalling lot of women and children… We had to exhume their bodies and carry them to mass funeral pyres in the parks—so I know.”

  7. 4 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    Never trust my rating on a Vonnegut. I love this man.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    After two somewhat disappointing books, I finally picked up a book Ive had since at least my birthday. My experience with Kurt Vonnegut remains slimmer than Id like, with most of it locked away in adolescent memories now slipping beyond the horizon of my mind. So it feels a little odd to be reading Armageddon in Retrospect, theoretically his last work (unless his estate publishes more unpublished tidbits), already. But I did, and I dont regret it. Clap me in irons if you must! Im at a loss for After two somewhat disappointing books, I finally picked up a book I’ve had since at least my birthday. My experience with Kurt Vonnegut remains slimmer than I’d like, with most of it locked away in adolescent memories now slipping beyond the horizon of my mind. So it feels a little odd to be reading Armageddon in Retrospect, theoretically his last work (unless his estate publishes more unpublished tidbits), already. But I did, and I don’t regret it. Clap me in irons if you must! I’m at a loss for what to say, though. For people who have read Vonnegut and know what to expect, there is nothing much to add. This is a bunch of stories written by Vonnegut. They have that classic Vonnegut feel for language simple in syntax yet fiendish in semantics. Most of them have something to do with war, with World War II, with the bombing of Dresden … at every level Vonnegut examines the assumptions and rationalizations we attempt to internalize about the morality of conducting war. Even the stories that are more removed from this setting, such as “The Unicorn Trap” or “Armageddon in Retrospect” are very much about the horrors that humans perpetrate in the name of the greater good. The highlight of this collection for most people will be Vonnegut’s final speech, which he finished but could not deliver before his death. Because I am so young and came to Vonnegut so late in his career, this speech, as one of the first if not the only non-fiction work of Vonnegut’s that I’ve read, greatly affected me. It let me see how the humour and his sardonic spin on things is not just something that saturates his fiction. His speech is peppered with jokes—including one about a man who was smuggling wheelbarrows, which I found hilarious—and absurd asides. All the while, this humour is working towards a more serious end. Sometimes we laugh because, if we don’t, we’d have to cry … I think that’s kind of what Vonnegut is doing. He has seen so much that he is not afraid to point out the bad and the good, particularly when it comes to an entity like the United States of America. Vonnegut can critique something while still loving it; this is an ability I feel is on the decline today, when the average level of political rhetoric involves the slinging of epithets about being anti-American or intellectually elitist or, heaven forfend, a science-loving atheist. That’s the brilliance of Vonnegut: he may at times be irreverent, but his is a classy form of irreverence, the type that wipes its shoes on the map before busting into your home and breaking into “The Galaxy Song”. So Vonnegut’s speech, as well as this book in general, provide a nice summary of why his writing is so powerful. His is a voice that speaks not for a generation or for a people or for a school of thought but merely out of a conviction that all humans deserve a healthy dose of dignity and levity. By far my favourite story, however, has to be “The Commandant’s Desk“. It is told from the point of view of a Czech cabinetmaker whose village has just passed from Russian hands to American ones. He considers this at first to be a cause for celebration and hope: the Russians were cruel masters, as bad as the Nazis, and he had been planning a little surprise for the Russian commandant, who had “requested” a grandiose desk. But, in the not-so-surprising Vonnegut twist, the American commandant turns out to be just as unsympathetic and unstintingly oppressive. The story finally comes full circle with a second twist, which results in a reveal of what the cabinetmaker had been planning all along. In the end, Vonnegut reminds of the dangers of romanticizing the nobility of soldiers (of any nationality) or the justness of occupying another land. Vonnegut’s writing continues to have a timeless quality to it. His stories have ideas and themes that apply just as much to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they do to World War II or Vietnam. Illustrations are interspersed between each story, and two in particular—colourful doodles on sticky notes—caught my eye. The first reads: “Darwin gave cachet of science to war and genocide” and the second, “In the U.S.A. it’s winners vs. losers, and the fix is on”. The latter is very easy to interpret in light of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The former seems to be an indictment of the “survival of the fittest” justifications for things like Aryan supremacy or eugenics, though it goes beyond that: thanks to evolutionary theory, there’s now a “scientific” rationale for making war, because only the strong should survive! Anyway, I just enjoyed these illustrations too. Not much else to say about this book. For those who are less experienced with Vonnegut or new to him entirely, Armageddon in Retrospect might be harder to grok; I’m sure I will get more out of it when I revisit it after having continued my survey of his oeuvre. Confirmed Vonnegut fans will like it. There’s nothing here that is sensational or eye-opening; no secret unpublished gem lurks between these pages. But it is yet another set of compelling thoughts on the relationship between absurdity and necessity that always seems to arises in discussions of war.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steven Burt

    I finished "Armageddon in Retrospect" a few weeks ago. It was really good. I often wonder about works published posthumously, particularly when the works had been kicking around for a while before the author died. Did the author want them to be published? Is there a reason they weren't published while they were alive? I graduated from Law School just over one year ago, and it seems that in every different area of law there is a seminal case, the first that you read for the first day of class I finished "Armageddon in Retrospect" a few weeks ago. It was really good. I often wonder about works published posthumously, particularly when the works had been kicking around for a while before the author died. Did the author want them to be published? Is there a reason they weren't published while they were alive? I graduated from Law School just over one year ago, and it seems that in every different area of law there is a seminal case, the first that you read for the first day of class because it is the first in the book. In my Trusts and Estates class, there was a case about Franz Kafka's will. The will called for the burning of Kafka's papers upon his death, but the administrator of his estate (Brod, I believe) refused to burn them, and instead had them published. If memory serves, not only could Brod not bear to burn the papers, he was convinced that the world needed to see them. Though it's hard to argue with Brod's reasoning or blame him for his actions, it still makes one wonder. . . Which brings be back to "Armageddon in Retrospect." Whenever I am reading or watching or otherwise experience art that has been published after the artist's death, I can't help but look for, and perhaps create, a "suicide note" quality to the work. This is particularly true, like I mentioned, if the work had been around for a while but, for whatever reason, was not published. "Armageddon in Retrospect" is interesting not only because of the stories that it includes, but also the original visual artwork produced by Vonnegut. The stories and the artwork either explicitly or implicitly orbit around what seems to have been the defining moment of Vonnegut's life, and the subject of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse Five--his experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany during World War II, where he was held before, during, and after the Allied Forces firebombed and destroyed the city. This central theme makes what might have seemed a random collection of stories purposeful and related. On the last page of the book, there is a quote that sums up the book and, arguably, the Vonnegut library quite well: “Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization.” As with any significant work of art, this book is both timeless and timely, dealing with universal themes that seem uniquely applicable to our day. I highly recommend this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I love this book because it offers so much - it's a buffet of essays, artistic sketches and short stories by a writer who managed to stay relevant and fresh into his late 80's. Some may be skeptical of the quality of work because the book was collected and published posthumously, but there's no need to fear that this is just another paycheck for the publisher. Most of the contents stand up with the rest of Vonnegut's work, which is to say, he paints pictures here with words of a humorous, I love this book because it offers so much - it's a buffet of essays, artistic sketches and short stories by a writer who managed to stay relevant and fresh into his late 80's. Some may be skeptical of the quality of work because the book was collected and published posthumously, but there's no need to fear that this is just another paycheck for the publisher. Most of the contents stand up with the rest of Vonnegut's work, which is to say, he paints pictures here with words of a humorous, horrible world, that is equal parts tragedy and irony. The book opens with an piece by Vonnegut's son, and it's interesting to hear from someone so close to a literary giant talk about his father's processes, troubles, and idiosynchracies as a writer, husband, and father. Of the collected tales within, the time traveling tale Great Day, and the self titled devil hunting Armageddon are probably my least favorite, with Spoils, Guns Before Butter and Happy Birthday topping my list. Perhaps the best piece, aside from the introduction is "At Clowes Hall" an adress that Voneggut would have delivered had he not passed away. The speech was delivered by his son, and probably would have made a better end to the title, (rather than the awkward Armageddon) because it channels Kurt Vonnegut's voice so well. You can practically hear his voice when reading the lines, and the final sentence would have much more weight placed at the back of the book... "and I thank you for your attention, and I'm out of here."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corey Pung

    Somehow, over the years, people have started using the phrase bleeding-heart liberal as if it were a bad thing. In Armageddon in Retrospect, a posthumous collection of essays and stories, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. comes off as a bleeding-heart liberal in the best sense of the term. Theres a distinction to be made between the bleeding-heart liberal and the hardline leftist. Both are useful and valuable in their own way. For an example of the more hardened individual, lets look to my idol Christopher Somehow, over the years, people have started using the phrase “bleeding-heart liberal” as if it were a bad thing. In Armageddon in Retrospect, a posthumous collection of essays and stories, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. comes off as a bleeding-heart liberal in the best sense of the term. There’s a distinction to be made between the bleeding-heart liberal and the hardline leftist. Both are useful and valuable in their own way. For an example of the more hardened individual, let’s look to my idol Christopher Hitchens, who frequently writes of having to hold in his vomit whenever he meets perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Christopher never pulled his punches with serious offenders and was always quick to join in on idealogical battles when he could discern which side was right. Kurt Vonnegut on the other hand is more interested in the victims than the perpetrators, something that comes up in book after book throughout his long career. In his most famous books, Vonnegut usually hides his bleeding heart under layers of irony and sardonic humor, but you can always tell its there, pulsing and gushing. Armageddon in Retrospect though is a collection of his unpublished writings concerning war and peace, and if I had to guess, the reason as to why these pieces went unpublished is because most lacked his trademark sense of humor. That’s not to say these entries aren’t good–no, many are good, but they’re different than what you’ve come to expect from Kurt Vonnegut’s ouevre. For example, the most important piece in the collection is Kurt’s essay Wailing Shall Be In All Streets, where he once again revisits the frightful night when he witnessed the bombing of the German town Dresden by the Allied forces. If you’re not familiar with this incident, Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in WW2, and happened to be on the scene when the entire town of Dresden, which he called the most beautiful city in the world, was bombed for strategic reasons (a major railroad ran through it). This incident already provided the centerpiece for his greatest novel Slaughterhouse-Five. For those who simply won’t read that novel due to the sci-fi elements or the often crass humor, this essay is essential. Even those who have read and fallen in love with Slaughterhouse Five would benefit from reading the essay as it contains a more pure and refined take on the tragedy than appears in the novel. If what you’re looking for is science-fiction, then you should skip ahead to Great Day, a story set on the battlefield of a future war where the army has found a way to distract the enemy with visions of soldiers from WW1 running rampant. The title story is where we’re reunited with the classic smirking Kurt Vonnegut we know and love. In it, he gives us a vision of a world where Intelligent Design has run amok, and scientists are now tasked with trying to rid themselves of the Devil. Some of the other stories that make up this short book are not quite as good. I have to wonder if Kurt Vonnegut would have even wanted these stories published were he alive today, but I’m sure this line of thought will only lead to specious reasoning. The weaker stories aren’t bad per se, but your time would be better spent re-reading his better stories like 2BRO2B. If there’s one thing Kurt Vonnegut taught us, it’s that if we’re confronted with grave atrocities, it’s fine to let your heart bleed a little. Moreso, it’s human. --Review by Corey Pung, author of The Madness of Art: Short Stories and A Rapturous Occasion

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Rosas

    It took me a while to finish this book, at a point I even abandoned it, as a collection of tales is hard to evaluate whats coming next, the first half was slow and a little bit boring but the second half improved lot, with the last shot story been the one that gives the book its title. Most of them are about the absurdity of war and how horrible and pointless it is, although recognizing that some dictators really deserve to be taken down. Some others are satirical, and deal with the losing side It took me a while to finish this book, at a point I even abandoned it, as a collection of tales is hard to evaluate what’s coming next, the first half was slow and a little bit boring but the second half improved lot, with the last shot story been the one that gives the book its title. Most of them are about the absurdity of war and how horrible and pointless it is, although recognizing that some dictators really deserve to be taken down. Some others are satirical, and deal with the losing side and the occupation, and a few others are just about the absurdity of the human collective. I’ve never heard of this author before and he was hard to read, but his good dealing with this topic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    A fine collection of posthumous writings, themed around Kurt's wartime experiences in Dresden. There are some truly essential stories here, among them 'Just You & Me, Sammy' and the wonderfully crafty 'The Commandant's Desk.'

  14. 4 out of 5

    Noa

    Overall review: This book has restored my faith in Kurt Vonnegut. After reading Slaughterhouse Five and not loving it as much as I had hoped, I thought his work was just not for me. However, this collection of short stories truly showed off his talent in sardonic humor and his ability to tell poignant and insightful war stories. The artfully written stories were thoughtful, absurd, heartbreaking, entertaining, and devastating - all while giving a unique view into the experience of soldiers. I Overall review: This book has restored my faith in Kurt Vonnegut. After reading Slaughterhouse Five and not loving it as much as I had hoped, I thought his work was just not for me. However, this collection of short stories truly showed off his talent in sardonic humor and his ability to tell poignant and insightful war stories. The artfully written stories were thoughtful, absurd, heartbreaking, entertaining, and devastating - all while giving a unique view into the experience of soldiers. I highly recommend this collection and found many chapters that I loved, but I thought a few of the stories fell a little flat so I cannot give it a full five star rating. Individual short story ratings: Speech — 5🌟 Wailing Shall Be in All Streets — 5🌟 Great Day — 3🌟 Guns Before Butter — 4.75🌟 Happy Birthday 1951 — 5🌟 Brighten Up — 3🌟 The Unicorn Trap — 4🌟 Unknown Soldier — 5🌟 Spoils — 3🌟 Just You and Me Sammy — 3🌟 The Commandants Desk — 4🌟 Armageddon in Retrospect — 3🌟

  15. 4 out of 5

    reem

    An amusing collection of essays on war and peace by the ever intelligent ever witty Vonnegut. I liked them well enough to give the entire book 3 stars but did I think it was his best work? Probably not. I never usually give him a lot of stars because his writing always seems lacking to me despite his unabashed brilliance. Though there's something curious about the way he tells a story that lures me back in, always, and I've yet to go a year without reading a Kurt Vonnegut book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I remembered Vonnegut being funny and clever. I didn't remember his satires being so humanitarian and dare I say sweet? Very few other people show such clear vision of their societies' absurdities, and even fewer can use humor to make such vision bearable for so many readers. Perhaps it's because these stories draw from his wartime experiences, and who (now) could see the bombing of Dresden, for example, as anything but ludicrous? This book starts with the last speech he'd written; if nothing I remembered Vonnegut being funny and clever. I didn't remember his satires being so humanitarian and dare I say sweet? Very few other people show such clear vision of their societies' absurdities, and even fewer can use humor to make such vision bearable for so many readers. Perhaps it's because these stories draw from his wartime experiences, and who (now) could see the bombing of Dresden, for example, as anything but ludicrous? This book starts with the last speech he'd written; if nothing else, go find and ready that. It is bizarre, extremely imaginative, heartfelt, and oddly shaped. Like much of the best satire, it feels breezy and off the cuff, but as the introduction by Vonnegut's son reminds us, writing which seems that way is almost always deceptive, hard-earned, much-revised. Perhaps some of the stories seem repetitive toward the last third. That kind of organizational flaw is basically to be expected with a posthumous collection of unpublished writings. My burning question is something else: how is it possible that so many people (almost entirely young men) who call themselves Vonnegut fans come off as arrogant, phony, entitled jerks? I suppose it's possible to love these characters for their bravado and cutting lines without getting it. Sadly, it has become one of my online dating rules: beware mentions of Vonnegut and Ayn Rand. Especially Ayn Rand.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ana (very.literary)

    4.4/5 This is a fantastic compilation of stories about war, written in Vonnegut's classic sardonic humor. They were published after his death, put together by his son, who wrote the introduction. Some of the stories were heartbreaking, others whimsical. All were insightful. The stories were organized so that the lighter stories alternated with the heavier ones. The stories are fairly short but influential and full of deeper meaning. They were entertaining, giving insight into the soldier 4.4/5 This is a fantastic compilation of stories about war, written in Vonnegut's classic sardonic humor. They were published after his death, put together by his son, who wrote the introduction. Some of the stories were heartbreaking, others whimsical. All were insightful. The stories were organized so that the lighter stories alternated with the heavier ones. The stories are fairly short but influential and full of deeper meaning. They were entertaining, giving insight into the soldier experience and into war itself, without making things too horrible or sad to read. I found them very accessible in that sense. My favorite of all is how they follow a theme. They all tie in the theme of war, some to a greater degree than others. I think Vonnegut truly shines in such fiction, with what he has to say about war and human behavior. In conclusion, I recommend this book :) -- i mean, isn't the title great? My favorite of the stories are: -Vonnegut's Speech at Clowes Hall, Indianapolis, April 2007 -Wailing shall be in all streets -Great Day -Spoils -Guns before butter -Armageddon in retrospect (the namesake of the book) -Read in 2018-

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bess Kurzeja

    Love Vonneguts included illustrations. Bought this book used at a dilapidated antique store in a small kayaking town in Colorado. Folded into the pages I found the following items: -1 partially finished Flat Stanley (only pants) - US Airways ticket from Philadelphia to Denver - 3 sudoku squares, with answers taped to back - bookmark from Tattered Cover Book Store - pink post it reading TOM. Book for you. Also please pick up mail Sat. Thank you Love Vonnegut’s included illustrations. Bought this book used at a dilapidated antique store in a small kayaking town in Colorado. Folded into the pages I found the following items: -1 partially finished Flat Stanley (only pants) - US Airways ticket from Philadelphia to Denver - 3 sudoku squares, with answers taped to back - bookmark from Tattered Cover Book Store - pink post it reading “TOM. Book for you. Also please pick up mail Sat. Thank you”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mina

    This was my introduction to Vonnegut. I think I fell in love with his writing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    He's a writer who combines writing beautifully with actually having something to say. This is a great farewell.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    its a no from me dog. it’s a no from me dog.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephie Williams

    This is a small book. It is a collection of short pieces by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. on war. They range from nonfiction (letters and addresses) to fiction (inventive and non-inventive). His son has written an introduction to these previously unpublished works. My favorite was of three prisoners of war cleaning up Dresdens streets after its fire bombing. What made it the best was that the prisoners under the lose supervision of their guard kept diaries of food recipes and what they would eat first when This is a small book. It is a collection of short pieces by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. on war. They range from nonfiction (letters and addresses) to fiction (inventive and non-inventive). His son has written an introduction to these previously unpublished works. My favorite was of three prisoners of war cleaning up Dresden’s streets after its fire bombing. What made it the best was that the prisoners under the lose supervision of their guard kept diaries of food recipes and what they would eat first when they got home because of my love of cooking and baking. In addition to this there is what I think is a surprising ending which I will not divulge.* If your a fan of Kurt Vonnegut this book should be agreeable to you. Even if your not, there still may be some good reading to be had. * If you want to know for the full story line and ending you can private message me and I will respond with it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    This collection of short stories on the topic of war was written throughout his career and released after his death. The stories vary widely in quality from absolutely hilarious, heartbreakingly sad, to rather mediocre (the majority of them.) Although the short stories are the bulk of the book but what makes this a must have for any Vonnegut fan is his nonfiction account of the bombing of Dresden, addressed in far more detail than any of his writings in the past (many of the short stories are This collection of short stories on the topic of war was written throughout his career and released after his death. The stories vary widely in quality from absolutely hilarious, heartbreakingly sad, to rather mediocre (the majority of them.) Although the short stories are the bulk of the book but what makes this a must have for any Vonnegut fan is his nonfiction account of the bombing of Dresden, addressed in far more detail than any of his writings in the past (many of the short stories are also set in circa WWII Germany and offer a personal glimpse of the author not usually seen in his other works.) The book also features the wickedly funny commencement speech Vonnegut was schedule to give before his death and a reproduction of the letter he first sent home after his time as a POW. For those bits alone it's well worth the price for any Vonnegut fan, if you are not a fan then you'd be better off with one of his more popular books. -------------------------------------------------------------- If you don't like Kurt Vonnegut then you have no soul, it's that simple.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Armageddon In Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut I read this in about 48 hours in Prague and was perfect to be read whilst sitting on our window ledge overlooking the Old Town Square and opposite the Astronomical Clock. This is the Second Book Kurt has put out since he died, why let death get in the way of a good career. It was also the second book of our trip to be set at least in part in Czechoslovakia as it is one of the places Kurt writes about in this collection of unpublished short stories on the Armageddon In Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut I read this in about 48 hours in Prague and was perfect to be read whilst sitting on our window ledge overlooking the Old Town Square and opposite the Astronomical Clock. This is the Second Book Kurt has put out since he died, why let death get in the way of a good career. It was also the second book of our trip to be set at least in part in Czechoslovakia as it is one of the places Kurt writes about in this collection of unpublished short stories on the theme of Armageddon and war and in the main part his experiences in WW2 and the Firebombing of Dresden, and after armistice seeing the shattered continent. All the stories are as ever easy to read and thought provoking with some good Sci Fi imagery thrown in at times. My favourite stories were Guns Before Butter, the Unicorn Trap and The Commandants desk. If you like Kurt Vonnegut then this is essential, it is also a good present to give anyone who needs convincing that War is a bad thing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    This collection of unpublished Vonnegut short stories demonstrates why they were never published when he was alive: they aren't very good. The only interesting item in Armageddon in Retrospect is a reproduction of the letter he wrote to his family after being freed as a POW in WWII, where he was forced carry the dead to bonfires following the bombing of Dresden. The letter hints at the writer he'd become: a dry humorist with a seemingly unpolished style who tackled great moral questions. The This collection of unpublished Vonnegut short stories demonstrates why they were never published when he was alive: they aren't very good. The only interesting item in Armageddon in Retrospect is a reproduction of the letter he wrote to his family after being freed as a POW in WWII, where he was forced carry the dead to bonfires following the bombing of Dresden. The letter hints at the writer he'd become: a dry humorist with a seemingly unpolished style who tackled great moral questions. The only interesting line the the book is attributed to his sister, Alice: "Your parents ruin the first half of your life, and your kids ruin the second half." There, I just saved you $24.95 plus tax. Let's hope Vonnegut doesn't turn into the publishing world's Tupac, coming out with new books long after he'd dead. A legacy is a terrible thing to ruin.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This was kind of disappointing. The stories were generally good, though a lot of them were kind of same-y, about his time in the army, in a wrapper of fiction. But the book kicks off with a commencement speech he was to deliver, but died before he did. It was just depressing. He was angry, disheveled, and not funny. He was just angry, without seeing any way things could be better. I don't know if the stories were old, and just unpublished, or written somewhat recently, but I was also disappointed This was kind of disappointing. The stories were generally good, though a lot of them were kind of same-y, about his time in the army, in a wrapper of fiction. But the book kicks off with a commencement speech he was to deliver, but died before he did. It was just depressing. He was angry, disheveled, and not funny. He was just angry, without seeing any way things could be better. I don't know if the stories were old, and just unpublished, or written somewhat recently, but I was also disappointed by A Man Without a Country, his essay collection. So, possibly he lost his non-fiction skill sooner, or the stories are older. But at least I still have several novels of his to read still.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    About halfway through this short collection, I was fairly unimpressed. Not that it was bad, unpublishable tripe that made it only because of Vonnegut's name, but because it just seemed unnecessary, and I felt it had all been said by him already. But I kept reading and am glad I did, because the second half of the book is much stronger. My favorites were 'The Unicorn Trap', 'Just You and Me, Sammy' and the title story, 'Armaggedon in Retrospect.' I also found 'Brighten Up' to be well written, but About halfway through this short collection, I was fairly unimpressed. Not that it was bad, unpublishable tripe that made it only because of Vonnegut's name, but because it just seemed unnecessary, and I felt it had all been said by him already. But I kept reading and am glad I did, because the second half of the book is much stronger. My favorites were 'The Unicorn Trap', 'Just You and Me, Sammy' and the title story, 'Armaggedon in Retrospect.' I also found 'Brighten Up' to be well written, but it left me with an unsettled feeling.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Rip Torn was the reader in this audiotape. I thought he was great in the movie Cross Creek, but here he was just plain reading weird. And not a funny weird, more of an insulting one. I thought the fiction pieces were unpublished for a reason. The nonfiction was excellent. Vonnegut tries too hard to be Mark Twain. Maybe he should just come out and shout, "Hey, Everybody, look I'm just like Mark Twain!"

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chester Hart

    There were some stories I enjoyed more than others in this collection but all have that effortless and light feel to them while also dealing with deep and dark topics. The deeper themes are definitely not thrust at you.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter Amos

    I love anthologies. Theres a certain economy to the idea. I get many stories for the price of a few. I pay only for one cover, one pass through the conveyor belt, one trip on a flatbed truck. I started buying anthologies years ago, but Ive recently gained a deeper appreciation for anthologies of shorter work essays, criticism, short stories. Collected short stories are cool. Collected essays, as well. But theyre snapshots in time. Margaret Atwoods Stone Mattress is lovely, but the stories were I love anthologies. There’s a certain economy to the idea. I get many stories for the price of a few. I pay only for one cover, one pass through the conveyor belt, one trip on a flatbed truck. I started buying anthologies years ago, but I’ve recently gained a deeper appreciation for anthologies of shorter work – essays, criticism, short stories. Collected short stories are cool. Collected essays, as well. But they’re snapshots in time. Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress is lovely, but the stories were collected by an editor and Atwood herself to achieve a certain effect. Most collections of shorter work are similar, if not (like Joan Didion’s Miami or Salvador) written at roughly the same time, about the same topic. I’ve recently been sifting, bit by bit, through huge anthologies of uncollected work by a handful of authors. Great masses of essays and remarks and letters and stories organized only in chronological order. Long strings of thought emerge that wouldn’t be obvious read weeks and months and years apart, in real time – uncurated, conflicted, emerging, and submerging. Saul Bellow obsesses over Ulysses, writing about it numerous times over twenty years, constantly finding ways to stack the work of others and the world around him against Joyce’s masterpiece. I’ve not read enough Kurt Vonnegut, but his posthumously released collection of essays and stories, Armageddon in Retrospect, is exactly what I’ve learned to expect of him. The remarks are bizarre, disjointed, and funny; the essays, deeply critical and compassionate; the stories, a brilliant blend of all. He writes of prisoners of war that dream of food, a young boy and his father’s small resistance, a family in recently liberated Czechoslovakia, and a soldier’s first experience under fire. Vonnegut is no different than other writers in that his stories and essays, spanning several decades, reveal a similar obsession. Perhaps the only difference is that Vonnegut’s is more persistent. His entire life is pinned around his experience as a P.O.W. in Dresden, Germany. Vonnegut’s son, who compiled the work, clearly understands this. The collection begins with a letter from his father in Germany to his family in America, following his release at the conclusion of the Second World War, five years before his first publication: “On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden –– possibly the world’s most beautiful city. But not me.” Vonnegut experienced very little fighting at war. He was captured in his first battle and spent the last year of the conflict in a Nazi prison camp in Dresden. He saw first-hand the brutality of the SS toward their prisoners. But, perhaps more formative, he crouched in one of the few adequate bomb shelters during the frightful firebombing of the city and, in the weeks after, was tasked with excavating dead bodies – "women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation” – and carrying them to bonfires for mass cremation. Later, he was released into the utter chaos of liberated Eastern Europe and witnessed the reprisals of Soviet troops, the anarchy of collapsing fascism, and the villages caught in the inferno. Dresden comes up numerous times in his stories. He can’t let the horror of what he experienced in the city leave him and seems compelled to purge it onto paper at intervals. More to the point, however, he can’t reconcile that the horror he scrubbed from concrete bunkers was wrought by the good guys. Vonnegut’s stories are run through with a deeply set morality – he has no conflict about who was on the right side of the war. But he witnessed the conflict in the historical black hole of the Eastern Front – not the democracies facing off against pure evil, but one evil being beaten back by another – and watched the fiery conclusion of the Allies’ lowest moment. He picked up limbs ripped from one another by Allied bombs, bodies scorched by phosphorus that didn’t know it was dispatched from democratic airfields. His sympathy lies rarely with anyone holding a gun, but rather with the prisoners and the occupied. It’s interesting to read the thoughts of a brilliant writer in their purest form, in a cross-section. The concentrated power of a novel is a beautiful thing in itself, but one gets a better sense of the mind behind it by reading in smaller chunks, spaced over a longer time. Vonnegut’s gallows humor, strange humanism, and deep sympathy for the powerless are laid obviously bare in Armageddon in Retrospect. It’s beautiful writing that reveals a remarkable writer with a fascinating perspective.

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