Ned Beauman’s 5th novel doesn’t seem out of character: Ned is British, born in 1985, son to an economist and a bookpublisher/journalist, and student of philosophy in Cambridge. Venomous Lumpsucker seems entirely like the kind of book such a fella would write: witty, very contemporary and with a healthy dose of late stage capitalism free market criticism.
Single genre classifications being very last century, Venomous Lumpsucker is a near-future-satirical-clifi-thriller. While to book is not an outright triumph, Beauman makes the combination work, and I liked it quite a bit. Its 294 pages are brimming with ideas.
The book’s main problem is that it doesn’t know where its heart is – not genre-wise, mind you – but qua content: Beauman doesn’t seem sure to be sad or humorous about the demise of our current ecological constellation.
My dust jacket has it like this: “Gripping and singular, Venomous Lumpsucker is a comedy about environmental devastation that asks: do we have it in us to avert the tragedy of mass extinction? And also: do we really need to bother?“
It seems to me that the fact that Beauman seems unsure himself got in the way for me as a reader to fully emotionally engage with the book. As such, it is more a novel of ideas & action than one of emotion.
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Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is a pivotal book in Vonnegut’s career as an author. It’s his 7th novel, and the one published after his masterwork Slaughterhouse-Five. Published when he was 53, it took him years to write, with a lengthy pause due to chronic depression. In a way, it is his farewell to fiction, intending to abandon the fictional form and the novel as ways to change the world or get to the truth. He returned to novels quickly however, publishing seven more.
I think the book was difficult to write because Slaughterhouse-Five was so good, and Vonnegut knew it would be hard to top. Despite the long gestation period, he wasn’t happy with the result and “gave it a C grade on a report card of his published work.” The critics were critical too, yet it remains one of his best known works – maybe in the wake of SH5‘s success?
Every artist has to deal with repetition, and Vonnegut tried to tackle it in this book by trying out two new things, but it are not much more than formal attempts, hardly changing the tone and the voice of his writing. The result is that Breakfast of Champions never rises above being generic Vonnegut. A quick dissection after the jump.
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