I've recently re-read "Jailbird" and find that, in spite of its link to a historical event, the Watergate scandal, it has aged very well. The wry, but not sarcastic, sense of humor is evident, as well as a brief introduction into the history of Communism in America. Kilgore Trout is even present as a minor character; a few of his science fiction stories are summarized in the novel. A very good, witty, light read. I think it has held up better than some of his other novels, for example, "Sirens of Titan", which I re-read and wondered why I had enjoyed the book so much as a teenager.
I enjoyed this book almost as much as "Mother Night" but I am reserving 5 star ratings for the best of Vonnegut. This book made many realistic allusions to events like the Cuyahoga Massacre and the Boston Clock Company that forced me to cite a historical source in order to determine whether the event had really happened. In many cases the events described were based on real occurences. Also the subplots of President Nixon's White House and other real-world scenarios make this book quite different than many of the Vonnegut novels I've read. As a Vonnegut enthusiast or a first timer, "Jailbird" is a must read.
Definitely the best of Vonnegut's novels that I've read, Jailbird is the story of Walter F. Starbuck, the smallest co-conspirator in the Watergate scandal. Having made his loyalties the best as he could, Walter finds himself in prison for withholding evidence against Nixon, even though he really had no true connection to him or respect from his fellow conspriators. After prison, Walter falls once again, committing a crime that mirrors his Watergate involvement in quite a few ways, and he goes to jail for the second time. Vonnegut's ingenious humor is present always in the book, and his prose is bedazzlingly perfect for the subject. Even though the novel may seem sentimental at times, that seems to be Vonnegut's purpose: his character is a sentimental man and bureaucrat. Readers should note that Vonnegut also uses some symbolism to perfect effect, making the book subtler than most Vonnegut novels. All these elements are Vonnegut at his best; he recreates, hilariously and perfectly, the political world of modern times. Throughout the story, Jailbird provides a pitiful hero, knocked down over and over again by his own fault in the bureaucratic world he has chosen for his home. It seems not so much the facelessness of the bureacratic system that destroys Walter(a theme visited over and over again in too many books, movies, etc.) as his own attempts to try and become part of that system and his emotional view of this world as a place where people are always considerate; his own desire to be a successful, protected, and respected man is the thing that makes him loyal and willing for all the wrong reasons and to the wrong people. In the end, Walter F. Starbuck is a victim of himself, a "jailbird."
Jailbird deserves a five star rating. But for many vonnegut enthusiasts all of his books have 5 star ratings. One can never go wrong when reading vonnegut! Always the black humorist,making our own lives just a little bit easier to live.I have read every word of his entire collected works. Novels, short stories, plays, essays and even commencement speeches. Jailbird, Sirens of Titan, and Cats Cradle are all incredible works for the first time reader to gain an unparalleled apreciation for this fun loving, playful author. Vonnegut is a must have!!
Vonnegut's "Jailbird" ranks among his best novels. There are so many levels of meaning (as in all of his books) that virtually any reader can take away something different from this book. A well-written satire that makes you think and makes you laugh.