Picks and Pans Review: Jailbird

updated 10/08/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/08/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Kurt Vonnegut

The title figure is released from prison after serving a term for Watergate misdeeds, and inevitably publishes his memoirs. Nothing is spared: his alma mater (Harvard), the Washington bureaucracy, lawyers, conglomerates, the wealthy, the labor movement, newspapers, magazines, TV—and virtually every other force in the universe. Vonnegut's strongest novel since Slaughterhouse Five is full of crafty insights like "Dear Lord—never put me in the charge of a frightened human being" and "All happiness is religion." He is also outrageous, e.g., a shopping-bag lady turns out to own a huge conglomerate. Yet he has never been more satirically on-target. Jailbird is an angry man's piercing look at Americans in the 1970s. In his eyes, we're a disgusting mess. (Delacorte, $9.95)

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