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What I thought of God Bless You, Dr Kevorkian

March 24, 2021

I read God Bless You, Dr Kevorkian in an hour-long sitting. It’s a lovely book that demonstrates just how good a writer Vonnegut was.

The clarity of his thought is astounding. Every sentence in every paragraph on every page has a purpose. He is in total control of the narrative at all times. There is clear steady progress from the start of the book to the end. Ostensibly, the interviews the narrator conducts with people in the afterlife are presented as if in random order, yet somehow the pacing has an internal logic that renders the whole story immensely satisfying.

His skill with language allows him to pick and chose the words, the phrases, the idioms that suit his purpose. I read somewhere that he worked each sentence over and over until it said exactly what he wanted it to say, at which point he moved onto the next sentence and that, once he was through with writing the novel, he had no need to go back to develop it or edit it. I’m not sure how true that is, but there is something wonderfully self-assured about his writing style that allows the reader to trust him as he tells his tale.

(This contrasts with Stephen King’s approach. He listens to loud heavy rock while drafting the first draft to allow his subconscious to tell the tale it wants to tell. The second draft is when he rewrites the first draft to bring out a cogent narrative. Again, probably an oversimplification, but it’s interesting to compare the two different techniques, both equally as valid, both producing amazing results, but each utilising a very different approach).

And everything Vonnegut learned in his career is put into service to frame his moral viewpoint, his belief that society should be run for the benefit of all and his insistence that we should look after the poor, the weak, the troubled. The further he grew into his career, and the more assured he was that his work was held in high regard by the American reading public, the more his morality took its place front and centre within his storytelling. His morality drives the narrative.

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