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Hocus Pocus

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. A small, exclusive college in upstate New York is nestled along the frozen shores of Lake Mohiga . . . and directly across from a maximum-security prison. The two institutions manage to coexist...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

In the shadow of Musket Mountain

This is probably my favorite of all of Vonnegut's works. It's the story of an ex-military man who becomes a teacher at a school for learning-disabled rich kids. He eventually is fired from the school for telling the students what an embarrassment it is to be an American, and he is hired by the prison across the lake. The story only gets more cynical and more sentimental from there. As each character dies, and so it goes, they are buried in the shadow of Musket Mountain when the sun goes down, a nice, poetic touch on this deeply sarcastic look at the American ruling class. I loved the alternative history lesson provided in this book, it's nice to see the positive side of American socialism and the potential it once held way back at the start of the 20th century. Hocus Pocus is one of those books I go back to ever couple of years and re-read...I like it that much.

Great Book (And refutation to some reviws)

Let me first tell you that this is by far one of Vonnegut's best. The social commentary that is diguised in the form of satire is rather tremendous and poignant. It has definitely an anti-war flavor to it, but it never overshadows the real substance of the author's witticism. It's a funny book, but not "hillarious" as the back cover of this volume attests. From a different point of view, it's a rather sad book if you understand the implications of the subject matter. A very good book and would recommend to any one interested in modern and post-modern American prose.Refutations:* Vonnegut is a post-modernist, which implies that the book (or any work of art) can and more likely be free of classical rigidity. So, complaining that he jumps back and forth through time and places is not a good criterion to undermine this work.* Repudiating this work because of Vonnegut's anti-war passages is as unfair as doing the same for say, Hemingway, O'Brian, Dalai Lama. * This is a quinteseential post-moder work, and as said above, it should and does not need to conform to the cannonical rules of plot flow, time flow, and characater development. You could even call this book a Cubist work due to its subdivisions within chapters. * This book goes much more than just war. It goes into love, sex, selling of American enterprises (and hence America) to foreign investors, race, class consciousness, and the attempt to keep the status quo by those who are ver well-off.* This book is completely well structured. Your could easily read just one chapter and be as happy as reading the whole book. The chapters are self-sufficient and self-contained. The further chapters are elaborations of thing, characters and bits from preceding chapters.* This is a GOOD book!

Hocus Pocus

Eugene Debs Hartke is a Vietnam veteran, teacher of the unteachable at Tarkington College, and later, a teacher of the unteachable at nearby Athena Maximum Security Prison. With insane wife and mother-in-law in tow, he examines the seemingly small choices made in life, and their unexpected consequences. With pathos and humor, the story details his unpromising youth, appointment to West Point, firing from Tarkington, and ends with his imprisonment for allegedly masterminding the prison break at Athena. I especially like the worldview of the protagonist. In a universe where so much is unknowable, to the best of his flawed ability to discern it, he pursues the truth. There is pain-staking honesty in his careful evaluation of both himself, and the society in which he lives. After I finished the book, I wanted to call up Eugene Debs Hartke and invite him out for a Freedom Fighter Beer. I want to hang around with him and listen to his observations on the human condition. Too bad he is fictional. The book reminded me to keep a perspective on human ego. Just because we consider ourselves to be the most developed life form on this planet, it doesn't mean we have the right to poison it, or the self-knowledge to render just judgments, or the wisdom to rule the universe. Kurt Vonnegut writes with loving cynicism. As you read his words, you envision him slowly shaking his head at the funny, crazy, and sometimes terrible things humans do. This book would be best enjoyed by readers that still try to figure out who the heck we are, and just what the heck we are doing here. If you are a hit and run reader, it is divided up in to many small sections. You can read it in little hunks, if you like. It is my personal favorite Vonnegut novel.

One of his finest books

At this stage in his career-1990, having already delivered several undisputed classics, Cat's Cradle, Slaughter-House 5, etc.-Kurt Vonnegut's place in the annals of American literature was already well established. And yet, he delivered yet another masterpiece with this book. The book is narrarated in first-person, and the character is another in the fine Vonnegut tradition: possessing a highly caustic wit, smart-alec persona, and a dry pessimism that is as funny as it is unfortunately true. This is the voice of Vonnegut, of course, and the body of literature is much the better for it. I won't divulge specific details of the book's plot here, like most Vonnegut, there is no real plot. Instead, the story is told in a very non-linear format, jumping from scene to scene in a juxtposed manner. This format, although idiosynctric, actually helps somewhat with the suspense factor... it reveals elements of the story that have not happened yet, without divulging their specific details. This is sort of a culmination of some of the many elements that make Vonnegut Vonnegut, coming on the heels of what many considered to be a series of downer books for him, which makes this one of his finest, funniest, and most enjoyable novels.

Porn and Vonnegut

I never really considered the fact that Kilgore Trout's (Vonnegut's alter ego science fiction writing character) stories always appeared in pornographic magazines, until I saw an excerpt from Hocus Pocus in either Playboy or Penthouse, giving me an excuse to say I'd bought the magazine for its articles and stories. It makes me wonder then about what this says about pornographic magazines. Maybe it suggests that many of them, in order to try to create an illusion of legitamacy, will take chances with literature that mainstream magazines might find to controversial. Indeed Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus may seem controversial to some, for it talks about things that a large majority of Americans would be more comfortable ignoring. Just as the main character, Eugene Debs Hartke is fired from his teaching job for having overly pessimistic ideas, Vonnegut's book itself pulls America's skeletons out of its closet. Perhaps what certain literature has in common with pornography, is the tendency people have to try to ignore what they both say about our society, to try to push it as far under the bed as possible. Hocus Pocus picks at the scabs of not only America's greatest embarrassments, but also our greatest failures. Everything from television talk-shows to the Vietnam War, racism, classism, the death of our economy, and the overcrowding of prisons is laid bare in all its uncomfortable ugliness. The difference however, between Hocus Pocus and a simple pessimistic rant, is Vonnegut's unique ability to make us laugh at it all, but without downplaying its seriousness at all. Overall it is a must read, for Vonnegut fans and for any American that wants to live honestly with him/herself.
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