Unstuck in Time by Gregory D. Sumner
A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels

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In Unstuck in Time, Gregory Sumner guides us, with insight and passion, through a biography of fifteen of Kurt Vonnegut’s best known works, his fourteen novels starting with Player Piano (1952) all the way to an epilogue on his last book, A Man Without a Country (2005), to illustrate the quintessential American writer’s profound engagement with the "American Dream" in its various forms. Sumner gives us a poignant portrait of Vonnegut and his resistance to celebrating the traditional values associated with the American Dream: grandiose ambition, unbridled material success, rugged individualism, and "winners" over "losers." Instead of a celebration of these values, we read and share Vonnegut’s outrage, his brokenhearted empathy for those who struggle under the ethos of survival-of-the-fittest in the frontier mentality—something he once memorably described as "an impossibly tough-minded experiment in loneliness." Heroic and tragic, Vonnegut’s novels reflect the pain of his own life’s experiences, relieved by small acts of kindness, friendship, and love that exemplify another way of living, another sort of human utopia, an alternative American Dream, and the reason we always return to his books.

About Gregory D. Sumner

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GREGORY D. SUMNER, JD, PhD, is chair of history at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he has taught since 1993. He holds a doctorate in American history from Indiana University and is the author of Dwight Macdonald and the Politics Circle. Sumner has been awarded summer fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has twice been William J. Fulbright Senior Lecturer at the Université di Roma Tre.
Published November 8, 2011 by Seven Stories Press. 369 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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In his chapter on Night Mother, Sumner zeroes in on the novel’s insistence on the impossibility of true moral purity through its portrayal of a protagonist who embodies the role of both war criminal and war hero: “He opens us to the disturbing malleability of the human soul, insists that there is...

Oct 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Unstuck in Time: A Journey Th...

Publishers Weekly

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Named for the mental dislocation experienced by Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, Sumner's exploration of the iconic writer's life begins with a brief biography and an outline of the recurrent themes found throughout his 14 novels.

Nov 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Unstuck in Time: A Journey Th...

Book Reporter

Sumner proves this point by spending the book's remaining chapters describing at length the plot of every Vonnegut novel, and outlining how certain plot points and themes connect to events in Vonnegut's life --- or what we know of it from the short description we are given.

Jan 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Unstuck in Time: A Journey Th...

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