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Bluebeard: A Novel [Paperback]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 8 1998 Delta Fiction
Broad humor and bitter irony collide in this fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, who, at age seventy-one, wants to be left alone on his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn. But then a voluptuous young widow badgers Rabo into telling his life story—and Vonnegut in turn tells us the plain, heart-hammering truth about man’s careless fancy to create or destroy what he loves.

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From Library Journal

Vonnegut rounds up several familiar themes and character types for his 13th novel: genocide, the surreality of the modern world, fluid interplay of the past and present, and the less-than-heroic figure taking center stage to tell his story. Here he elevates to narrator a minor character from Breakfast of Champions , wounded World War II veteran and abstract painter Rabo Karabekian. At the urging of enchantress-as-bully Circe Berman, Karabekian writes his "hoax autobiography." Vonnegut uses the tale to satirize art movements and the art-as-investment mind-set and to explore the shifting shape of reality. Although not among his best novels, Bluebeard is a good one and features liberal doses of his off-balance humor. Recommended. A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Ranks with Vonnegut’s best and goes one step beyond . . . joyous, soaring fiction.”—The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

“Vonnegut is at his edifying best.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist. ”—Time

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
HAVING WRITTEN "The End" to this story of my life, I find it prudent to scamper back here to before the beginning, to my front door, so to speak, and to make this apology to arriving gusts: "I promised you an autobiography, but something went wrong in the kitchen. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read March 24 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a fan of Vonnegut, this is less sensational than most of his novels but it does have a great story and a gift at the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Vonnegut's Most Hearfelt Works Feb. 17 2004
I'm a huge Vonnegut fan. He is one of the strongest influences on my own writing. However, while I usually find his stories full of real characters who are in unreal situations (Time Quake, Galapagos, etc.) Bluebeard is full of real characters in a very real setting. It is a character story through and through, and is refreshingly Earth-bound. If you like Vonnegut but dislike his tendencies towards sci-fi, you'll love this book. If you love the sci-fi edge, well... you'll probably still like this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best books Feb. 2 2004
I am a big fan of Vonnegut. This author will amaze you every time. Bluebeard is deffinatly in the same ranks with Cat's cradle and Breakfast of Champions
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Vonnegut Dec 19 2003
In the 5 or 6 Vonnegut books I've read so far, I've yet to be disappointed, and Bluebeard is certainly no exception. It is, however, one of his less fantastic tales. Karabekian has a less than ordinary past, but the story itself seldom leaves his house in the Hamptons, except for the random flashbacks to his childhood or his time during the war as a camouflage artist. The genius in this book is truly the characters and the twists of admiration, disgust, comraderie and annoyance that keeps even an old bluebeard constantly evolving.
Though not my favorite of Vonnegut's books, I consider even the worst of what he's written absolute masterpieces.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, Solid, Funny/Sad Book! Nov. 26 2003
This is book is an exemplification of life and its ironies. The author has such a witty yet down-to-earth writing slyle that makes the reader curious as to what lies ahead. I marvelled at the way the author goes back and forth in time and places without ever confusing the reader. The flow of the book is magnificent, and the story in it is so human that one can alsmost empathize with Rabo though he is a fictional character. Kurt Vonnegut is definitely a genius of American literature and a much under-rated at that. Very beautifully written from a person who could have easily turned bitter or tormented by blows life has dealt him. Excellent penmanship, excellent story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "How Did your Parents Die?" Nov. 22 2003
_Bluebeard_ has no time-travel, aliens, human robots, or Kilgore Trout, but is a very Kurt Vonnegut book, and my favorite of his novels. _Bluebeard_ is a very life-affirming novel over-all: a rare Vonnegut stance, but one I wish he'd explored more often.
_Bluebeard_ is the story of Rabo Karabekian, an Armenian-American Abstract Expressionist painter, told from the point of view of a autobiography/diary. Rabo is inspired to begin this work after an encounter with a bright, vibrant woman, Circe Berman, a writer of bright, vibrant novels for young adults, who doesn't believe in saying "hello" and instead greets him with the question "how did your parents die?"
These quirky moments of conversation and life color the whole novel. But the novel is not all humor and lightness; Circe's question demonstrates the bitter-sweet nature of much of the novel. Much of that which gives the novel its humanity are the moments of despair and sad revelation. But the revelations are not that of destiny controlling aliens, or the author giving free-will to his creations, a strength of the book, and over-all the book is positive.
Like Rabo, Vonnegut departs from the genre that he's known for, but both end up creating masterpieces that touch the soul and open room for wonder in Vonnegut's world.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut hasn't failed me yet July 3 2003
By K Cole
Bluebeard was the 4th Vonnegut novel I've read, and after reading it, I'm now almost done with my 5th. He never ceases to amaze me with how he pulls it all together in the end. Vonnegut has the knack for perfect endings, and this is no exception.
I was a bit scared at the 'topic' of the book, which is a mock autobiography of an impressionist painter, as I've never been too heavily into the artistic world of painting, but regardless of the subject matter, the book is very much more.
Rabo Karabekian, a minor character in "Breakfast of Champions," is a stubborn, ghost of his past self at the opening of the book, until Circe Berman, a widow and pop novelist, shows up at his estate and begins to seek the non-ethereal man.
While the novel is in the style of an autobiography, it is also crossed with a sort of journal of Karabekian's relationship with Berman, his cook, and his last surviving painter friend. All of the characters have depth, yet are developed slowly enough to be well digested.
Throughout the novel, a Bluebeard theme is carried out, with Karabekian having locked up something in his potato-barn-turned-studio that everyone is dying to discover. Like something out of Catch-22, there are other smaller "Bluebeards" throughout the novel, as we see Rabo's childhood, 'apprenticeship', military service, marriages, painting career, and retirement.
Anyone that likes Vonnegut will love this book, and anyone that hasn't read Vonnegut should.
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5.0 out of 5 stars eessential reading Oct. 5 2002
Vonnegut's sem-autobiography, based on the interesting life of Rabo Karabekian, an Armenian-American, war veteran, abstract expressionalist painted, who after the death of his 2nd wife to cancer, became a morose recluse in his house in the Hamptons. He's decaying one day at a time, until an eccentric young woman named Circe Berman invades his privacy, bullies him into writing his autobiography, and revitalizes him with a new approach to life. It has many uncanny similarities to Vonnegut's life, such as the experiences in Dresden, Germany, being married twice, and being unconventional and unique in their respective art forms (writing and painting in this case).

The journey begins with Rabo's parents escaping the Armenian Holocaust, then leads to his apprenticeship to Dan Gregory, a prominent Norman Rockwell-type painter who treats him like a peasant, and who is infatuated and enchanted by Hitler's philosophy, and the dictatorship in Europe circa World War 2. It also shows his affair with Gregory's girlfriend, Marilee Kemp, and their betrayal to Dan Gregory by going to the Museum of Modern Art and by making love to each other. It also shows his introduction to abstract-expressionism, and being in the same ilk as gorundbreaking and innovative painters, such as Jackson Pollock and Terry Rothko, both died due to self-destructive behavior.

This is a book you have to follow carefully in order to understand, since Vonnegut likes to switch back and forth to different time periods and zeitgeists in the course of this book. But it is essential reading, and certainly one of the most memorable books I have ever read in my entire life.
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