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Anyone who reads Vonnegut regularly must know that black or gallows humor is his specialty. Nothing sacred or off-limits in this novel. As satires goes, Vonnegut can deliver some very wicked blows against the cultural bastions of society when it comes to exposing their moral shortcomings: wealth, romance, theater and justice. While America may appear to be one of those places that thrives on the certainty of hard work, trust, honesty, and vision, for Vonnegut nothing will stand the test of time. Historically, the power of guns, drugs and, ultimately, the neutron bomb to destroy civilization are the evil forces at work on dismantling the American Dream. By the end, fortunes, dreams and marriages will be laid waste by the big game changer: the increasing need to feel secure in a very insecure and hostile world. The Waltzes may try to jettison the baggage of their past like melting down their oversized gun collection but that won't help if their young son has already inadvertently killed a neighbor while playing with one of the guns. They may want to disavow their Nazi connections but there will always be that tawdry reminder - one of Hitler's better watercolors - popping up every so often to haunt them. The society Vonnegut depicts here - big city America - with its many opportunities to succeed, has no safeguards against failure. Violence will dog Rudy's life as he tries to make sense of the changing fortunes of his family and his newfound reputation as a young killer. An inherited painting, memories of a gun collection, former Nazi ties, in-laws becoming hopelessly addicted to drugs, and a plan for nuclear annihilation of an entire American town are all part of an ominous legacy that gets darker by the moment. Everything in this wild tale hangs around like a dirty shirt to remind us that we are all part of a killing society, especially as we try to eradicate our past and start over again. There is only one hope when it comes to charting one's future in a culture that offers little in the way of determining what comes next either from a violent past or a menacing future. Just hope there isn't anyone to pass it on to. A conscious decision in this book to bail on this present world, like fleeing to the mythical land of Shangri-la - in a musical based on someone else's experiences - will meet with personal disappointment and public indifference. In the end, reputations, normally the essence of any legitimate society, are largely imagined, easily discarded and, eventually, destroyed because humans, in Vonnegut's estimation, can't control the things that go into making them. If they don't shoot people, they blow them up, or discard them in favor of drugs to dull the pain of inadequacy.. The only reason why Rudy survives in all this mayhem is that Vonnegut creates an end-of-time, neutered individual who will not be contributing to perpetuating this farce into the next generation.
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Deadeye Dick is a novel only Kurt Vonnegut could have written - quirky, strange, thought-provoking, and a little bit depressing. The story of Deadeye Dick and his family is not a happy one. Rudy Waltz acquires his unusual nickname at the age of twelve by accidentally killing a woman in his hometown, but the whole story starts well before Rudy was even born. His father was supposedly a promising artist, or at least his own mother thought so, but he and his painting tutor did little more than travel around getting drunk and carousing with women of ill repute; after the tutor was exposed as a sham, Otto Waltz went to Austria to study in the years before the Great War; his lack of talent forbade him entry to the Academy, and he developed a friendship with another failed artist who later became chancellor of the Third Reich. This association with Hitler and some of his ideas would come back to haunt Otto in the 1940s. Rudy was Otto's second son, and on the day when his father bestowed upon him the key to the gun room, Rudy took a rifle up to the top of the cupola at his family's most unusual residence, fired it randomly, and unknowingly shot a pregnant woman right between the eyes while she was vacuuming - thus did Rudy receive the nickname Deadeye Dick. His father insisted on making a production about how everything was his fault, and life would never be the same again for the dysfunctional Waltz family. They lost everything, and life got little better as Rudy matured. The story of Deadeye Dick and his family goes on to include such events as a decapitation, a death by chimney (it was made of radioactive cement), and the eventual death of everyone in the whole town by way of an accidental neutron bomb explosion. There is a lot of symbolism in the book, and Vonnegut's discussion of what certain symbols mean in the introduction is particularly helpful in understanding this novel (although I'm still a little unsure about the random inclusion of recipes throughout the story). One experiences a definite lack of closure upon completing this fascinating read, and that inevitably disappoints some readers, including myself to some degree, but I don't think any can deny the fact that Deadeye Dick offers a typically Vonnegut-like interpretation of life and offers much food for thought to the serious reader.
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on April 17, 2003
Another failed Vonnegut character mopes through life, bemoaning his failures and viewing all with a jaundiced eye, as he waits for the end. This is a note that Vonnegut strikes often: a poor ineffectual fool passively accepts his fate in an absurd, random universe. The more Vonnegut I read, the more tired I become of this tune, but I must admit that the author makes some interesting points along the way.
This time the fool is Rudy Waltz, who gained the nickname of Deadeye Dick when he fired a gun into the air, inadvertantly killing a pregnant woman a block away. The story is fascinating and real when dealing with this tragic mistake and its consequences. I couldn't help but feel some disappointment as the more absurd qualities of the story (ie, neutron bombs and radioactive mantlepieces) asserted themselves. Vonnegut writes well about real people dealing with real problems. I wish he would have restrained himself from introducing so many surreal elements; they smack of gimmickry and self-conscious symbolism.
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on October 8, 2002
After hearing so many extraordinary things about Kurt Vonnegut, particularly about Cat's Cradle, I jumped with delight when I saw Deadeye Dick selling for [$] at a used bookstand in NY. I'm beginning to wonder whether or not I could have used that [$] for something better.
I was thoroughly encapsulated by Vonnegut's unique style and honesty throughout his introduction and the first few chapters of the novel, which I later found was the best part. I felt as if the entire novel was a setup for some plot that was going to develop, but when I reached the end I realized that that was it. Not to mention that the only character with any character at all was Rudy's father. Yeah, yeah, the book had societal symbolism and isolated incidents that stood on their own without a plot, but the story in which they were presented literally had no point and went absolutely nowhere, therefore diluting the value of those rare gems of scenes. In addition, most of the dialogue seemed forced, melodramatic, and unrealistic at times. Novels about nothing can be good reads, but for some reason Vonnegut missed the mark. Tom Robbins and John Irving are much better at accomplishing a realistic sense of grotesque absurdity in their symbolism of the world.
I will give Vonnegut a second chance and will read Cat's Cradle. I hope I have a better experience.
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on September 18, 2000
Vonnegut strikes again with his wit, although this time his cynnisism seems a bit muted. He gives us Rudy Waltz, son of two of the most eccentric people you will ever meet. Rudy as a young boy accidentally kills a young pregnant woman with his rifle thus earning the nickname and book title "Deadeye Dick". Rudy grows to become a pharmacist. He never leaves his parents and his accident as a child has a profound role in the rest of his life. He carries the guilt, is unable to forge new relationships, and is relatively unhappy for the rest of his life.
Seems like it would be a bit depressing but Vonnegut keeps the novel rolling with his social commentary on parenting, the medical field, the government, etc. etc. etc. Of course the accidental shooting is not the only misfortune to enter the lives of Rudy and his family but why ruin the book for you?
Vonnegut really kept me engrossed in this novel. It is a quick read and worth picking up, even if you haven't read much of his other work. A solid 4-Star novel.
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on March 9, 2000
Deadeye Dick had a mix of everything, murder romance and major accident resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of people in a typical American town. Rudy Waltz is telling the story of his life. Vonnegut is a master of suspense, not the usual cliched way, but he gives you inforamtion bit by bit that makes you want to keep reading. ofcourse any person can read this book but it takes a true reader and analyzer to UNDERSTAND this book. while i was reading this wonderful book, it got to me that today "...we're still in the dark ages; the darkages, they havent ended yet. (p240)" the book is full of twists, one of the little ones is that rudy waltz's father, otto waltz, saved hitler from death and starvation in Vienna before world war 1. "Think of that:my father could have strangeled the worst monster of the century, or simply let him starve or freaze to death. But he became his bosom buddy instead." A double murder, a neutron bomb explosion, a mysterious decapitation, just a few of the many ironical twists of this wonderful cynical look at society.
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on December 7, 2001
After finishing one of Vonnegut's books, I always like to read essays and critical thought writings on the book. As I began to read some on Deadeye Dick, I realized that most people are morons. It doesn't matter what other people thought the book was about, where the symbols are, or how he meant for things inside it to be taken. Vonnegut himself lends his thoughts to this very idea. Look at the Author's notes at the beginning of the book. He gives a list of symbols that he included in the book. Did he do this for a reason? He certainly did. But in my opinion, and if youve been reading this, you realize it doesnt matter, but in my opinion, it doesnt matter what he thinks the symbols are. It matters how you percieved the opinions, and the way i percieved them is not at all how he did. Sure, he wrote the book, but I read it, and a book unread is useless. Life goes on.
If you like Vonnegut, you'll love Deadeye Dick....
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on October 22, 1998
Many reviewers have indicated that Deadeye Dick was their first Vonnegut. To get a better (if that's possible) experience from reading this book you should now read Breakfast of Champions, if you haven't already. One of Vonnegut's motifs through the years has been to bring up certain characters and plot lines in several books--Kilgore Trout being one of them. He does this most successfully in Deadeye Dick tying up many threads and characters from BOC. If you have not read either book read BOC first and follow it immediately with Deadeye Dick. While both books are excellent on their own, you will enhance the experience of both by reading them back to back. Although I read BOC almost twenty years ago, I was taken right back to it while reading Deadeye Dick. I enjoyed it more with each turn of the page. These two together are a knockout!
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on April 29, 2001
Although not Kurt Vonnegut's best novel, Deadeye Dick is an enlightening, fast-paced, and highly entertaining satrical look at the death of innocence and the randomness of life. Through the plot and the life of the protonagist, Rudy Waltz, we are shown how seemingly random and completely unforseeable events can completely change and/or wreck a person's life. Everything we do, however seemingly trivial, has a consequence. Vonnegut's writing style is as fluid and graceful as ever, with a prose, quick wit, and pace that will keep you reading. His ever-present humor and light touch with weighty subjects is apparent from the very first page. A good read that you will enjoy. If you are new to this author, I would recommend reading something like Cat's Cradle first, but this is a fine novel and recommended for all Vonnegut fans.
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on June 21, 1997
This is my first Vonnegut novel. With a quick pace and bizzare set of stories it kept me intrigued through and through. In my experience people either label Vonnegut as one of the best authors of our era, or merely as a gifted entertainer, both are accurate. I find his writing style compelling and very powerful. The story unwinds slowly, but you are forced to follow Vonnegut's mind to find out how or where you will turn up next, whether it be listening to a twelve year old wallow about his ignorant father, or curiously watching as the chairman of NBC loses yet another wife. If in reading a book you desire to see only the plausible happen then look elsewher, for here you never quite know what psychological quirk might be next
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