“The only way I can regain credit for my early work is to die,” Kurt Vonnegut once said, sounding more amused than worried about it. Ever the realist, ever the stoic, ever the cynic, Vonnegut got how the lit game works. Reputations soar, tumble into the trash and rise mysteriously again. The good news is that quality tells in the end; and so here we are, 2 1/2 years after Vonnegut’s death, celebrating new books and handsome reprints by a man who, by the time he passed on, had been a part of the liberal furniture for so long (“counter-culture icon,” proclaimed the New York Times obituary) it was possible to forget he’d done a life sentence at the typewriter, fighting his suicidal tendency and instead making magic happen. Vonnegut started publishing in the early 1950s and, in 1969, came out with “Slaughterhouse-Five,” recently reissued by Dial Press — along with “Sirens of Titan,” “Mother Night” and “Galapagos,” all $15 — a miracle book that both distilled everything its writer knew and caught the wave of America’s damaged, deranged Vietnam-era mood. The worldwide splash made by “Slaughterhouse-Five” turned Vonnegut into a wealthy celebrity, and thereafter it came to seem that everything he’d written before had been a kind of preparation, while what he wrote after merely drifted in that book’s wake. That judgment is true in a way and yet totally unfair — a very Vonnegutian formulation — although “Slaughterhouse-Five” does remain central.
more from Richard Rayner at the LA Times here.