Hocus Pocus Indeed

Hocus Pocus  Courtesy: Goodreads

Hocus Pocus
Courtesy: Goodreads

In the title I refer to the book Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. This post will be my review of the book, or whatever I managed to read of it. But how I got to reading that book deserves a mention.

In my current workplace, I am fortunate enough to have some very interesting people who are on the same wavelength as me and read good literature (across genres). One of them is a very good friend of mine, and she came up with the most fantastic suggestion. Let’s start an office book club! So on the third Friday of the month, which is our monthly birthday celebrations day, we all gathered in our Proofreading room (we’re an academic editing firm), and each of us spoke about our favourite or most influential book. Someone mentioned reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and how good a book it was.

I had read about Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five many times. So I decided to read a Vonnegut book next and get to know the author.

I could only get my hands on Hocus Pocus. The synopsis was mildly interesting; I usually refer to Goodreads ratings when a synopsis doesn’t entirely convince me. A rating of 3.5 or more stars means that the book is likely worth my time; anything above 4 is awesome and must be read! Hocus Pocus is a 3.8, so I decided to give it a go.

I had only read a short story by Vonnegut before, 2 B R 0 2 B, which was right up my alley. However, it wasn’t something that helped me understand or like the author.

So, Hocus Pocus. Vonnegut’s writing is supposed to satirical and wry, and it was so in this book. But those instances were not that many. Or if there were, I just did not find them funny enough. The book is a narration, on scraps of paper of varying sizes as stated by the author, by the protagonist Eugene Debs Hartke, who through his disjointed flashbacks tells the story that includes his past and life choices that led him to his current situation, and the history of the college turned penitentiary he is in and of the founders and trustees of that college. 

And it is not interesting.

I could see that satire at work, drawing parallels between inane situations narrated by Eugene and the government and political actions and situations; highlighting the illogic of things and people. But all of it is so drab and uninteresting. The protagonist is downright boring. I didn’t like him, hate him, or identify with him. I was indifferent. Basically, I just didn’t care what had happened to him or what was happening to him. I just did not get drawn in. And that’s not a good sign when you’re reading a book.

I just couldn’t find or make any connection with the book.

Usually, when I have a book to read, I *make* time to read it; but with Hocus Pocus, I found myself doing everything else but reading the book even when I had the time. I realised that I did not want to read the book. This is probably the second book, after the utter piece of crap Atlas Shrugged, that I have left a book incomplete. No, wait, it’s actually the third time; I also did not complete Brave New World but only by the last 20% or something. With Hocus Pocus, I don’t think I reached even halfway through.

So would I recommend it to anyone? Probably not. Will I read another book of his again? Yes, I will give him another go, but not in the near future. I already have a ridiculously long wish list; I’ll consider the purpose of my existence fulfilled if I can read at least half of it.

If anyone else has read the book, do tell me if I missed something good about the book.


4 thoughts on “Hocus Pocus Indeed

  1. Ha! Your blog looks different than when I first came, and I adore it! Excellent background.

    I haven’t read this particular book, I only read (half of) Slaughterhouse-Five and had a similar experience of disinterestedness that you describe. I realise this book is called a masterpiece but it didn’t speak to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mara! I felt the space looked bland and a background would add some, well, background 🙂
      So, this Vonnegut hype seems to just that: hype. But I’ll reserve final judgment after I read another book of his. (Almost) everyone deserves a second chance.


  2. I’m finding if the book doesn’t capture my attention after the first chapter, I’ll move on. That’s to say this for those books I don’t make a priority. Series books, I try hard to stay in the story as best as I can!


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