Saturday, July 14, 2012

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Kurt Vonnegut's Armageddon In Restrospect: don't use semicolons daw.

IF I AM to simulate, even by a long shot, the life I had just before clerkship, I must resume my usual reading habits. That means I must take a break from my medical books once in a while — if I ever do read them — although I must confess that Dripps/Eckenhoff/Vandam: Introduction to Anesthesia edited by David Longnecker has been a fun, engaging experience for me.

Kurt Vonnegut's Armageddon in Retrospect was my alternative reading material. I had read it intermittently, having started on parts of it while the eye of the storm momentarily passed through the Emergency Room, and continued on it while I waited for the Anesthesiology resident to allow me to do the spinal anesthesia block.

Published posthumously, the book is a collection of 12 essays and short stories, with themes ranging from the author's speech delivered in Indianapolis in 2007, to his World War One experiences, and the bombing of Dresden. Many of the stories remind me of Slaughterhouse-Five, probably Vonnegut's most famous work, which is about an ill-trained American soldier captured by the Germans.

Vonnegut's letter to his father when he was a prisoner of war in Germany (Letter from PFC Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., to his family, May 29, 1945) starts off the collection. His family hadn't heard from him in a very long time.

His speech he gave at Clowes Hall, Indianapolis, on April 27, 2007, is crazy! There he said some funny things like, "My advice to writers just starting out? Don't use semicolons! They are transvestite hermaphrodites, representing exactly nothing. All they do is suggest you might have gone to college." I wonder if there's a video of that speech in Youtube.

Among my favorites include:

Guns Before Butter, which is about three American soldiers discussing what food they will eat the moment they get home. They write their recipes in small notebooks.

The Unicorn Trap, set in 1067, where a kid makes a trap in the forest in the hopes of capturing a unicorn.

Spoils, where an American soldier accidentally kills and roasts the much loved rabbit pet of a German child. The guilt still hangs heavily on him.

The Commandant's Desk, where the owner of a cabinet-making shop in Czechoslovakia designs an office desk for a rude American major.

Armageddon in Retrospect, where a former atomic scientist spends the rest of his life in pursuit of Demonology.

Now that I'm done with the book, I must snap back to reality—or maybe to the season one finale of Suits. This is to good to be true: I have both my Saturday and Sunday free for the first time!

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