Most helpful positive review
Symbolic musings on the life of an unforgettable character
on April 27, 2003
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.