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Picks and Pans Review: Palm Sunday

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by Kurt Vonnegut

Though it is subtitled “an autobiographical collage,” this work is not written in the confessional mode popular among celebrated talents. Instead, Vonnegut employs irony and introspection while stitching together speeches, letters, reviews and memories. The result is a tantalizing book shrouding as much of the author’s life as it reveals. Vonnegut recounts his boyhood in Indianapolis, his POW experience in Dresden during World War II, his mother’s suicide, his son Mark’s breakdown, the failure of his first marriage (“a tale of a man’s cold sober flight into unpopulated nothingness”) and most of his sins. Included are a few uniquely Vonnegut touches—a self-interview and a brief musical adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In one piece Vonnegut grades his works. Slaughterhouse-Five gets an A+, Slapstick a D; he gives this book a C. But readers know he’s always been his harshest critic. (Delacorte Press, $13.95)