Sunday, August 09, 2015

Two Books: One Dud and One Winner (Vonnegut vs. The O.K. Corral)

I decided to make a push this weekend to finish at least two of the three books that it seems like I've been reading forever.  And, as of an hour or so ago, I did it.  I finished Mary Doria Russell's Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral yesterday morning and Love as Always, Kurt (a sort of Kurt Vonnegut biography) this afternoon.  I was impressed by one of the books, but not so much by the other.

Epitaph is a detailed, character-driven novel that vividly portrays just how "accidental" the whole gunfight at (it is more accurate to say near the O.K. Corral) the O.K. Corral really was. For roughly two years preceding the gunfight, the novel vividly portrays Arizona politics and the handful of drifters, including the Earp families and Doc Holliday, that eventually got sucked into it.  Their combined stories and the way their paths crossed in a Tombstone back alley for a thirty-seccond gunfight is both complicated and fascinating, and Russell, who has a previous novel featuring Doc Holliday to her credit, tells it well.

Love as Always, Kurt, on the other hand, really disappointed me.  I realize that this is a memoir and that Loree Rackstraw focuses almost entirely on experiences she personally had with Kurt Vonnegut - and I can't say that I wasn't warned because the book's subtitle, after all, is Vonnegut as I Knew Him.  But that just doesn't work here, and I find myself with more questions than answers regarding Vonnegut's personal life.  I knew that the man's political views were those of the extreme left; we all know that just from reading his books.  But Rackstraw's take on Vonnegut's politics comes across as so simpleminded that I have to hope that the views expressed here or hers - and not Kurt's.  I can't believe a man as bright as Kurt Vonnegut would believe some of the things Rackstraw claims he believed in this memoir.

Anyway, more later.  I have to let both of these simmer for a day or two before I will be ready to finalize my thoughts.

Post #2,528

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