I read the book Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut. The word slapstick is used for some sort of comedy so the title, Slapstick, refers to the book being harshly funny and unserious. There is also an “alternative” title to the book, Lonesome No More! This refers to when the main character, Wilbur, becomes president and creates new middle names for everyone so anywhere they go they will be able to find someone they are related to, hence, Lonesome No More!
The story is organized by flashbacks. It starts out with the main character, Wilbur, being all washed up then he basically just tells the story of his life and how he got to where is he presently. The story takes place in the United States during the not so distant future. During the flashbacks, Wilbur is at his isolated house growing up, which I think was in the southeast. Then he goes to the northeast for schooling which was in the city. Gravity changes in the book, sometimes it’s light and sometimes it’s heavy. This is the only part of the “weather” we really see. The affect the setting has is that you can just imagine what it would be like if everything that happened in the book really happens in the future. If the setting was is the past you would not believe any of it because the past already happened, but because it is in the future you can actually almost picture some of the events happening. Also because everything takes place in the United States it gives you an even better reference to picture everything because that is where we live.
The main characters in the book are Wilbur (Daffodil-11) Swain and Eliza Swain. They a brother and sister whom are both ugly and alone they are nothing. Together they are super geniuses. Wilbur is able to write information down very well but he is horrible at speaking. Eliza is the opposite; she can orally present information well but she can’t read or write. They also both yearn to be with each other but unintentionally they have sex, which is weird. Wilbur wants her out of his life once he is on his own but Eliza always teases him into wanting to be with her. Wilbur’s acts kindly, but doesn’t really think out actions and the consequences. Eliza is similar to this but to a greater extent. She just kind of lets herself go; whatever happens, happens. She is nice for the most part. They both also seem insecure because they are so different from the rest of society. Physically they are both really tall and developed during their teens. Wilbur even has gray hair. They are both really ugly, but Eliza is the ugliest.
The plot is that Wilbur and Eliza together are some of the smartest people on earth. When they are apart they are just normal dumb people. Growing up they learned as much as they could from book and they wrote papers (one of which the Chinese wanted to help them solve something.) They both act really dumb around people because they don’t know that anyone wants them to act smart. Their parents don’t know what to do with them. After some testing Wilbur is the only child that can potentially do something in the world because he can read and write; Eliza can only orally produce information. So they are separated and Wilbur goes on to school and college. He eventually runs for president and wins. His campaign was that he would make new middle names for everyone so they would have new relatives throughout the United States. “Lonesome No More” was his slogan and it won him the presidency. Ironically this plan doesn’t work out because people are angry and the United States is a mess. His sister dies and that’s basically it. The point of the book is more the smaller details in it that make it funny.
The theme of the book in fairly hard to tell because it is not a very serious book. What I got from it was about loneliness and alienation. I think the message is that you need to stay with the people you love and that you can’t just replace people in your life. The reason I believe this is because Wilbur and Eliza were happy being together and they also functioned better together. When they were separated they both became really messed up people. Eliza became really ugly and had no real place in society, and Wilbur became addicted to Tourrette’s syndrome medication because he was insecure. Wilbur also created relatives for people so they wouldn’t be lonely but this plan didn’t really work. Also, the books alternative title, Lonesome No More!, suggests that theme.
The most interesting scene in the book is when Wilbur and Eliza find out that their parents want them to show some signs of intelligence so they decide to act smart for their parents. They made a big sign saying something on the lines that they have become smart and they put it in their parents to see when they woke up. Their parents were totally dumbfounded and upset. They suddenly didn’t want them to act intelligent. So Wilbur and Eliza went back to being stupid and acting like babies. I thought it was pretty funny.
At first, I thought Slapstick was a bad book. When I was reading it I was more reading it just to get it read rather than enjoy it. I think if I were to read it again and take the time to enjoy the comical parts I would have liked it a lot more. The humor in it is crude at times but it’s likeable. When I had just finished reading it I didn‘t like it, but when I thought back on it some parts were actually really funny, so if one were go in with the mindset to enjoy the book, they would really like it.