Timequake (1997) is a semi-autobiographical work by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He uses a tale of being caught in a time-warp as a platform to reminisce about various events in his life, and to essay on the human condition.
- Page numbers refer to the 1998 Berkley trade paperback edition, ISBN 0-425-16434-9
- All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.
- Epigraph, p. xii
- I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, "The Beatles did."
- Ch. 1, p. 1
- There is no way a beautiful woman can live up to what she looks like for any appreciable length of time.
- Ch. 6, p. 22
- It used to be said of a man who had suffered a catastrophic setback in his line of work that he had been handed his head on a platter. We are being handed our heads with tweezers now.
- Ch. 9, p. 38 (speaking of microchips)
- If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have nerve enough to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts.
- Ch. 10, p. 42
- Slaughterhouse-Five has been turned
Into an opera by a young German,
And will have its premiere in Munich this June.
I’m not going there either.
I am fond of Occam’s Razor,
Or the Law of Parsimony, which suggests
That the simplest explanation of a phenomenon
Is usually the most trustworthy.
And I now believe, with David’s help,
That writer’s block is finding out
How lives of loved ones really ended
Instead of the way we hoped they would end
With the help of our body English.
Fiction is body English.
- Ch. 11, p. 46
- You want to know why I don’t have AIDS, why I'm not HIV-positive like so many other people? I don’t fuck around. It’s as simple as that.
- Ch. 12, p. 49
- If your brains were dynamite, there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.
- Ch. 14, p. 56
- "She was a widow, and he stripped himself naked while she went to fetch some of her husband's clothes. But before he could put them on, the police were hammering on the front door with their billy clubs. So the fugitive hid on top of a rafter. When the woman let in the police, though, his oversize testicles hung down in full view."
Trout paused again.
"The police asked the woman where the guy was. The woman said she didn't know what guy they were talking about," said Trout. "One of the cops saw the testicles hanging down from a rafter and asked what they were. She said they were Chinese temple bells. He believed her. He said he 'd always wanted to hear Chinese temple bells. "He gave them a whack with his billy club, but there was no sound. So he hit them again, a lot harder, a whole lot harder. Do you know what the guy on the rafter shrieked?" Trout asked me. I said I didn't. "He shrieked, 'TING-A-LING, YOU SON OF A BITCH!' "
- Ch. 14, pp. 58-59
- Those artsy-fartsy twerps next door create living, breathing, three-dimensional characters with ink on paper. [...] As though the planet weren’t already dying because it has three billion too many living, breathing, three-dimensional characters.
- Ch. 18, p. 71
- "If I'd wasted my time creating characters," Trout said, "I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter: irresistible forces in nature, and cruel inventions, and cockamamie ideals and governments and economies that make heroes and heroines alike feel like something the cat drug in."
Trout might have said, and it can be said of me as well, that he created caricatures rather than characters. His animus against so-called mainstream literature, moreover, wasn't peculiar to him. It was generic among writers of science fiction.
- Ch. 18, p. 72
- Western Civilization's second unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide.
- Ch. 19, p. 73 (referring to World War II)
- "We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is."
- Ch. 20, p. 78 (quoting his son, Mark Vonnegut)
- I like to sleep. I published a new requiem for old music in another book, in which I said it was no bad thing to want sleep for everyone as an afterlife.
- Ch. 21, p. 83
- I thank [Kilgore] Trout for the concept of the man-woman hour as a unit of measurement of marital intimacy. This is an hour during which a husband and wife are close enough to be aware of each other, and for one to say something to the other without yelling, if he or she feels like it. Trout says in his story "Golden Wedding" that they needn't feel like saying anything in order to credit themselves with a man-woman hour. [...]
[A character in Trout's story] calculates that an average couple with separate places of work logs four man-woman hours each weekday, and sixteen of them on the weekends. Being asleep with each other doesn't count. This gives him a standard man-woman week of thirty-six man-woman hours.
He multiplies that by fifty-two. This gives him, when rounded off, a standard man-woman year of eighteen hundred man-woman hours. He advertises that any couple that has accumulated this many man-woman hours is entitled to celebrate an anniversary...
- Ch. 24, pp. 94-95
- I will say, too, that lovemaking, if sincere, is one of the best ideas Satan put in the apple she gave to the serpent to give to Eve. The best idea in that apple, though, is making jazz.
- Ch. 24, p. 95-96
- There is a planet in the solar system, where the people are so stupid they didn't catch on for a million years that there was another half to their planet. They didn't figure that out until five hundred years ago!
- Ch. 26, p. 101
- Science never cheered up anyone. The truth about the human situation is just too awful.
- Ch. 31, p. 121
- In real life, as in Grand Opera, arias only make hopeless situations worse.
- Ch. 32, p. 128
- All male writers, incidentally, no matter how broke or otherwise objectionable, have pretty wives. Somebody should look into this.
- Ch. 34, p. 133
- I always had trouble ending short stories in ways that would satisfy a general public. In real life, as during a rerun following a timequake, people don’t change, don’t learn anything from their mistakes, and don’t apologize. In a short story they have to do at least two out of three of those things, or you might as well throw it away in the lidless wire trash receptacle chained and padlocked to the fire hydrant in front of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
- Ch. 42, p. 161
- Artists [...] are people who say "I can't fix my country or my state or my city, or even my marriage. But by golly, I can make this square of canvas, or this eight-and-a-half-by-eleven piece of paper, or this lump of clay, or these twelve bars of music, exactly what they ought to be!"
- Ch. 42, p. 162
- If you really want to know whether your pictures are, as you say, "art or not," you must display them in a public place somewhere, and see if strangers like to look at them. That is the way the game is played. [...] The situation is social rather than scientific. Any work of art is half of a conversation between two human beings, and it helps a lot to know who is talking at you. [...] There are virtually no respected paintings made by persons about whom we know zilch. We can even surmise quite a bit about the lives of whoever did the paintings in the caverns underneath Lascaux, France. [...] If you are unwilling to claim credit for your pictures, and to say why you hoped others might find them worth examining, there goes the ball game. Pictures are famous for their humanness, and not their pictureness. [...]
There is also the matter of craftsmanship. Real picture-lovers like to play along, so to speak, to look closely at the surfaces, to see how the illusion was created. If you are unwilling to say how you made your pictures, there goes the ball game a second time.
- Ch. 43, pp. 168-169
- I am eternally grateful [...] for my knack of finding in great books, some of them very funny books, reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else might be going on.
- Ch. 47, p. 182
- The British astronomer Fred Hoyle said something to this effect: The believing in Darwin’s theoretical mechanisms of evolution was like believing that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and build a Boeing 747. No matter what is doing the creating. I have to say that the giraffe and the rhinoceros are ridiculous. And so is the human brain, capable, in cahoots with the more sensitive parts of the body, such as the ding-dong, of hating life while pretending to love it, and behaving accordingly: "Somebody shoot me while I’m happy!"
- Ch 49, p. 188-189 (The quoted exclamation is attributed, on page 3, to Fats Waller.)
- Let me note that Kilgore Trout and I have never used semicolons. They don't do anything, don't suggest anything. They are transvestite hermaphrodites.
- Ch. 49, p. 190
- Kilgore's Creed: "You were sick, but now you're well again, and there's work to do."
- Ch. 50, p. 196
- The self-respects of most middle-class American people my age or older, and still alive, are out to pasture now, not a bad place to be. They munch. They ruminate. If self-respect breaks a leg, the leg can never heal. Its owner has to shoot it.
- Ch. 55, p. 211
- Listen: We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different!
- Ch. 57, p. 219
- Many people need desperately to receive this message: "I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them. You are not alone."
- Ch. 58, p. 221 (about why he writes)
- I asked Kilgore Trout for his ballpark opinion of John Wilkes Booth. He said Booth's performance in Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., on the night of Good Friday, April 14th, 1865, when he shot Lincoln and then jumped from a theater box to the stage, breaking his leg, was "the sort of thing which is bound to happen whenever an actor creates his own material."
- Ch. 59, p. 225
- Adam and Eve, more in love than they have ever been before, tell Him that they like life all right, but that they would like it even better if they could know that it was going to end sometime.
- Ch. 63, p. 238
- Xanthippe thought her husband, Socrates, was a fool. Aunt Raye thought Uncle Alex was a fool. Mother thought Father was a fool. My wife thinks I am a fool. Wild again, beguiled again, a whimpering, simpering child again. Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I.
- Ch. 63, p. 240
- Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgment Day: We never asked to be born in the first place.
- Epilogue, p. 249