Vonnegut’s Report Card

In Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut assigns each of his books published to date a grade from A+ to D.    Some of the grades might surprise you.

Player Piano   –  B                                              Happy Birthday, Wanda June  –  D

The Sirens of Titan  –  A                                   Breakfast of Champions  –  C

Mother Night  –  A                                             Wampeters, Foma, & Granfalloons  –  C

Cat’s Cradle  –  A+                                              Slapstick  –  D

God Bless Your, Mr. Rosewater  – A              Jailbird –  A

Slaughterhouse-Five – A+                               Palm Sunday  –  C

Welcome to the Monkey House  –  B-

According to these grades Vonnegut clearly thought his work post-Slaughterhouse-Five, with the exception of Jailbird,  was not as strong as his early novels.   While Slapstick may deserve its low mark, Vonnegut’s assessment of Breakfast of Champions seems unduly harsh.  The amazing scene in the Holiday Inn bar in which Vonnegut confronts his fear of schizophrenia and Rabo Karabekian shares his philosophy of art is a tour de force equal in power to anything Vonnegut has written.  In The Vonnegut Effect, Jerome Klinkowitz calls Breakfast “Vonnegut’s most thoroughly developed novel of ideas.”

The “A” for Jailbird, Vonnegut’s most recent novel when Palm Sunday was published, indicated a return to form, and was followed by the excellent trio of Deadeye Dick, Galapagos, and Bluebeard.