August 29, 1990
Among the most original stylists in America today, Vonnegut vents his disgust and moral outrage with government and humanity and the entire universe in yet another scathing social/political/philosophical satire. Set in the year 2001, but jumping over the last half of the 20th century, Hocus Pocus takes on an absurdist's perspective of human history. Protagonist Eugene Debs Hartke, West Point graduate, Vietnam vet, college professor, educator of the disabled and the illiterate, is awaiting trial for a crime initially unspecified. Until this time, Hartke has diligently and good-naturedly participated in whatever was expected of him, including involvement in the evacuation of American personnel from Saigon. At one point, however, he calculates the remarkable fact that he has killed exactly as many people as he has had sex with, a coincidence that causes him to doubt his atheism. The narrative is composed of short takes in which Hartke's thoughts skip between the inconsequential and the profound, giving Vonnegut occasion to interject interesting tidbits of information, scientific and historical and otherwise. The cumulative power of the novel is considerable, revealing Vonnegut at his fanciful and playful best. First serial to Penthouse; BOMC selection; QPB featured alternate.