Melville House, December 16, 2011
Kurt Vonnegut: The Last Interview is actually a series of interviews conducted from the 1970s until his last one, which was conducted in 2007. The interviews were originally published in a variety of places (my favorite being a co-interview he did with Joseph Heller that was published in 1992 in Playboy, the topics including blurbing each other's books, whether young women are sexier than old women, and the soul-sucking nature of divorce).
If you're a Vonnegut fan, I suggest you check this out. It's Vonnegut, unedited and unadorned! It's one-liner tastic! Examples:
Interviewer: What is a twerp in the strictest sense, in the original sense?
Vonnegut: It's a person who inserts a set of false teeth between the cheeks of his ass.
Interviewer: I see.
Vonnegut: I beg your pardon; between the cheeks of his OR HER ass. I'm always offending feminists that way.
And also, this gem:
Vonnegut: I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.
It should be noted that as the interviews go on, Vonnegut tends to recycle the same stories and jokes. It makes sense- he was getting along in years, was tired of making up creative answers to the same old questions, and his opinions about humanity hadn't really changed. This collection is SUPES funny and a great look into Vonnegut's thoughts on everyday things AS WELL AS, you know, the atomic bomb and stuff.
Penguin, October 2011
THIS IS THE INTERESTINGEST. However, I don't think it will convince anyone who hasn't read Moby Dick to do so, for the following reasons: 1) If you haven't read a book, assumedly because it's long and hard and maybe boring, would you ever pick up a book that was trying to change your mind? Maybe no. 2) Philbrick spends a lot of time saying things like (I summarize) THIS IS THE LONGEST *butworthit* and MELVILLE WAS MAYBE A LITTLE CRAZY *noitsreallyworthit* and EPIC WORK OF GENIUS *butmaybenotthathard*.
Aside from that, if you HAVE read Moby Dick, I recommend this. If you loved it, it will further articulate why you loved it. If you hated it, it's a well thought-out defense that may provoke your thinky bits. He goes into the symolism (or lack thereof) of the white whale, Melville's mania surrounding the production of the novel (anyone else think Melville sounds a little manic depressive here?), the development of Ahab, etc. He makes a good case for Moby Dick being the Great American Novel, not just because it was written by an American, but because it's subtly about America and American values (the real ones, not the Republican ones [no offense]).