Josh Nathan: The Last Book I Loved, Slapstick

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I began reading Kurt Vonnegut after I had slid too far down to climb back up the slide of becoming a full-blown pessimist.

I remember feeling this during a month long trip to Mexico. I saw villages with homes made of cardboard boxes and sheet metal. I saw the corrupt government manipulating its uneducated citizens with religious and political propaganda.

Vonnegut has become the Paxil to my pessimism. Put another way, he is an optimistic pessimist.

Slapstick follows Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain through his life in a kind of post-apocalyptic America. Vonnegut creates a bizarre, quasi-science fiction story then injects his brand of humor into this tale of a frustrating human existence. It’s a story only a young child (or Vonnegut) could think up.

The author is the literary version of Woody Allen, but as opposed to Allen who’s hit or miss, everything Vonnegut makes is a gem. In Slapstick, he mixes crazy ideas (such as his notion that the Chinese have created a way to shrink themselves to use less energy) with ideas that are somewhat plausible (he says, for instance, that the pyramids were built because at that time in history there was less gravity).

And when Dr. Swain eventually runs for president his campaign slogan is “Lonesome No More.” Each time I read a book by Vonnegut I feel less alone in dealing with the bruising, confusing sides of life. To me that’s a helluva feat. Hi Ho.


Josh Nathan played football for two years at Bethel College and is now studying film and human sexuality at the University of Kansas. More from this author →