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Called our finest black humorist by The Atlantic Monthly, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential writers of the th century Now his first and last works come together for the first time in print, in a collection aptly titled after his famous phrase, We Are What We Pretend To Be Written to be sold under the pseudonym of Mark Harvey, Basic Training was never published in Vonnegut s lifetime It appears to have been written in the late s and is therefore Vonnegut s first ever novella It is a bitter, profoundly disenchanted story that satirizes the military, authoritarianism, gender relationships, parenthood and most of the assumed mid century myths of the family Haley Brandon, the adolescent protagonist, comes to the farm of his relative, the old crazy who insists upon being called The General, to learn to be a straight shooting American Haley s only means of survival will lead him to unflagging defiance of the General s deranged but oh so American, oh so military values This story and its thirtyish author were no friends of the milieu to which the slick magazines advertisers were pitching their products When Vonnegut passed away in , he left his last novel unfinished Entitled If God Were Alive Today, this last work is a brutal satire on societal ignorance and carefree denial of the world s major problems Protagonist Gil Berman is a middle aged college lecturer and self declared stand up comedian who enjoys cracking jokes in front of a college audience while societal dependence on fossil fuels has led to the apocalypse Described by Vonnegut as, the stand up comedian on Doomsday, Gil is a character formed from Vonnegut s own rich experiences living in a reality Vonnegut himself considered inevitableAlong with the two works of fiction, Vonnegut s daughter, Nanette shares reminiscences about her father and commentary on these two works both exclusive to this editionIn this fiction collection, published in print for the first time, exist Vonnegut s grand themes trust no one, trust nothing and the only constants are absurdity and resignation, which themselves cannot protect us from the void but might divert I admit, I am an avid Vonnegut fan, having read nearly everything he has written, so my view of this is jaded by my recognition of the thoughts, insights, themes, character types and style that this appealed to me on so many levels Thanks to Nanette Vonnegut for her foreward and for sharing this first work Basic Training and his supposedly final work, unfinished If God Were Alive Today I found it interesting to juxtapose his early and late works to see how he evolved I saw Vonnegut I admit, I am an avid Vonnegut fan, having read nearly everything he has written, so my view of this is jaded by my recognition of the thoughts, insights, themes, character types and style that this appealed to me on so many levels Thanks to Nanette Vonnegut for her foreward and for sharing this first work Basic Training and his supposedly final work, unfinished If God Were Alive Today I found it interesting to juxtapose his early and late works to see how he evolved I saw Vonnegut speak several times at Lehigh University, once for commencement and once as a guest speaker, and his final work seemed to incorporate so much of what he most, in later life, most interested in Had Vonnegut finished this work, it would have been interested to see how he would refined this piece This work is clearly not for the reader new to Vonnegut, but, for me, it was satisfying This collection contains some of Vonnegut s first and last writing Quick read, but full of insight and Vonnegut s wry sense of humor It s also interesting to see how the themes in Vonnegut s works are there at the beginning and end of his writing career I enjoyed this book, especially the the unfinished last novel, and will be readingVonnegut First of all, I m not rating We Are What We Pretend to Be as a Vonnegut book If I were, I d probably give it a lower score Not because it isn t any good, but rather that it isn t a great Vonnegut book Also, it wouldn t be fair To keep our rating criteria fair, after all, we have to rate any given thing as a thing in its own right, right Okay, so I m rating this book for the overall reading experience, which, unavoidably, is influenced by my status as a longtime Vonnegut fan I know this see First of all, I m not rating We Are What We Pretend to Be as a Vonnegut book If I were, I d probably give it a lower score Not because it isn t any good, but rather that it isn t a great Vonnegut book Also, it wouldn t be fair To keep our rating criteria fair, after all, we have to rate any given thing as a thing in its own right, right Okay, so I m rating this book for the overall reading experience, which, unavoidably, is influenced by my status as a longtime Vonnegut fan I know this seems on its face to contradict what I said earlier, but it doesn t In other words, when I rate every other book I read, I do so as a Vonnegut fan I can t not love Vonnegut See what I mean On to the book Is Basic Training a superb story Well, no It s a good story, though, and as a window into the early Kurt Vonnegut, it s priceless It s very similar to some of his early short fiction, where you can see the beginnings of the voice and wonderfully skewed worldview Vonnegut came to embody And If God Were Alive Today, though it doesn t stand up to most of Vonnegut s better known works, is still better than most anything else I ve read lately In short, anyone who loves Vonnegut should read this book Elsewhere, it s been derided as just another attempt to cash in on a writer s unprinted works While that may or may not be true, as with most things in life and as Vonnegut demonstrated so beautifully throughout his career there s alwaysthan one way to see things Bearing that in mind, I choose to see it as oneopportunity to experience Vonnegut describing the world I saw this slim volume in my local library and couldn t resist picking it up, as it was unfamiliar to me, a big Kurt Vonnegut fan When I got home with it, I realized I already read the first half of it when it was released as a Kindle Single review here.The second half is the unfinished novel Vonnegut was working on at the time of his death The main character, Gil Berman, is supposed to be an edgy comedian in the Lenny Bruce mold, but sadly comes off as a mouthpiece for a frustrated, fed up, I saw this slim volume in my local library and couldn t resist picking it up, as it was unfamiliar to me, a big Kurt Vonnegut fan When I got home with it, I realized I already read the first half of it when it was released as a Kindle Single review here.The second half is the unfinished novel Vonnegut was working on at the time of his death The main character, Gil Berman, is supposed to be an edgy comedian in the Lenny Bruce mold, but sadly comes off as a mouthpiece for a frustrated, fed up, elderly writer, whose landmark works he is decades removed from writing Even then, there is still some charm in what exists of the story, from its seamless non linear telling, to some similarities the kind I can t quite put my finger on to The World According to Garp, a favorite novel of mine All in all, this is only for the most serious of Vonnegut fans Anyone new to him should instead start with Slaughterhouse Five, Cat s Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, or Gal pagos