We Are What We Pretend to Be – Vonnegut’s “Alpha and Omega” Stories


I just finished reading the second half of this book, which purports to contain author Kurt Vonnegut’s “first and last works.” I already posted about the first one, “Basic Training,” which I enjoyed. The second one was not as well received – by this reader anyway.

The second novella, “If God Were Alive Today,” is the rambling story of Gil Berman, a brilliant but greatly troubled comedian. To me it was too much of a re-telling of themes that we regular readers of Vonnegut have encountered many times before. This one was unfinished as of the author’s death in 2007, and I think you can tell.


“Excuse me, stewardess, I speak Vonnegut” (taking some liberties with June Cleaver’s – er, Barbara Billingsley’s dialogue in Airplane)

What it did contain, however, was something I’ve noted at the meetings of The book club of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis. Vonnegut comes up with (often hilarious) new definitions for commonplace things. I threatened before to “come up with a quiz” including some of these so here it is:

Do YOU speak “Vonnegut?”

Match the term Vonnegut uses with the “real life” word or words. Admittedly,some of these are just traditional ’similes’ I guess, but nonetheless, lets see how you do…  (I’ll post the ‘answer key’ as a comment in a few days)

vonnegut matching

Oh and I also learned a new word from this novella. Do you know what puttees are? You’ve seen them. They are the leggings frequently worn by British soldiers in World War I (see picture below)