Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

Last year when my fabulous sister-in-law went to her parents' house, they set a task upon her to go through her old stuff they had stored away in their attic. She came across a bag of books she didn't want anymore (I remember a lot of V. C. Andrews but I can't be sure) and asked if there were any I'd want. I chose one: Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. I read it this week to complete my What's In a Name Challenge, by reading a book with a body part in the title.

What I learned: there is an old fairy tale called Bluebeard. In that tale, a man called Bluebeard marries his 5th wife or so, takes her to his mansion and says, "You can go anywhere in this house except...this one room." And what does the newlywed do? Go in the room of course. What does she find? The bodies of his previous wives, all but the first murdered for looking in the room, sealing her fate.

What does that have to do with the Kurt Vonnegut tale? Rabo, an Armenian and the main character, has an old potato barn which is only to be unlocked after he dies. But he promises there aren't dead bodies in there.

The mystery of the potato barn drives the story as we learn about Rabo's life. He is a famous abstract artist who no longer paints. My favorite part of the story is why his paintings are so famous, and consequently why he no longer paints -- he used a paint which eventually peeled off all the canvases and fell to the floor, leaving blank canvases in museums and on people's walls.

Rabo also only has one eye, just like Captain Skippyjon Jones. Rabo lost his in WW2 though. Here is a passage which gave me some comfort on the matter:
I used to wonder back then what it was like to have one eye instead of two, and experiment by covering one eye with a hand. The world didn't seem all that diminished when I looked at it with only one eye. Nor do I feel today that having only one eye is a particularly serious handicap.
Circe Berman asked me about being one eyed after we had known each other less than an hour. She will ask anybody anything at any time.
"It's a piece of cake," I said.

I've never read a book by Kurt Vonnegut before, but thanks to my fabulous sister-in-law and her parents' need for more attic space, I have now and definitely will again. I liked how he writes just like he's talking to you.

If you are going to read Bluebeard too, I recommend sneaking a peak at the last page of Chapter 33. It will explain how to pronounce Rabo's last name.

And to complete the What's In a Name challenge, I'm asked to share which book I read for the challenge that was my favorite. I read:
1. A book with a "profession" in its title.
Blessed are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch finished 3/1/09
The Barfighter by Ivan G. Goldman finished 2/7/09
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood finished 3/25/09

2. A book with a "time of day" in its title.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon finished 5/31/09
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer finished 7/1/09

3. A book with a "relative" in its title.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger finished 8/19/09
Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World by Amy Seidl finished 4/6/09

4. A book with a "body part" in its title.
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut finished 12/27/09

5. A book with a "building" in its title.
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman finished 6/16/09
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe finished 5/24/09

6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding finished 9/19/09

My favorite would have to be...The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon!

The Bluebeard drawing I found above (Don't look!! is what I have to say to her) is by Arthur Rackham. I'm a fan.

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