Bluebeard (Magill Book Reviews)
Kurt Vonnegut’s books leave the reader marveling at the protean nature of the novel: What a fine form it is that can accommodate almost anything the novelist wants to put into it. BLUEBEARD purports to be the autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, although as Karabekian explains in the opening paragraph (ostensibly written after the narrative that follows), his account is as much a diary of current experiences as it is a recollection of the past. Widowed by the death of his second wife (his first marriage ended in divorce), he is writing in his opulent Long Island home, which contains the world’s largest private collection of Abstract Expressionist paintings. On the beach there, he meets Circe Berman, herself recently widowed and (under the pseudonym Polly Madison) the author of many enormously popular novels for young adults. This formidable woman immediately begins to reorganize Karabekian’s household.
Karabekian has a secret: In the potato barn which once served him as a studio, its doors now locked and nailed shut, there is something, his last will and testament so to speak--but what precisely it is he refuses to say. That secret is revealed to Circe Berman (and to the reader) at the book’s conclusion. Meanwhile, Vonnegut stirs in a rich mix of ingredients: the character and fate of the Armenian people; representational art versus nonrepresentational art, and in particular the rise of Abstract Expressionism (which Vonnegut describes as “the first...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
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Bluebeard (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Rabo Karabekian lives in a mansion on Long Island with a woman who cooks for him and her teenage daughter. His friend and neighbor is a novelist, Paul Slazinger, who is suffering from writer’s block. Rabo, a failed artist, is bonded to Slazinger by their experiences in World War II, in which Rabo lost an eye and Slazinger suffered a severe wound when he fell on a Japanese grenade to protect his fellow soldiers. Rabo despairs of them both, saying, “We look like a couple of gutshot iguanas!” Rabo’s first wife divorced him, and he is alienated from their two sons. His beloved second wife, Edith, died and left him the nineteen-room mansion in East Hampton, where he lives in slothful widower comfort. His life takes a sudden turn when he meets Circe Berman, a widow who at forty-three is twenty-eight years younger than Rabo. Circe, a very successful writer of novels for juveniles, is a woman of great spirit and charm. She moves into Rabo’s mansion and goads him into writing the autobiography that makes up the novel.
The plot of Bluebeard develops three major themes. First, Rabo is an Armenian, and Armenians and Armenian history are at the novel’s center. Second, Rabo is a talented illustrator who became closely involved with the major figures of Abstract Expressionism but failed as an artist. Finally, the Turkish genocide against Armenians...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. LXXXIII, August, 1987, p. 1699.
Chicago Tribune. September 27, 1987, XIV, p. 1.
Kirkus Reviews. LV, August 1, 1987, p. 1113.
Library Journal. CXIII, January, 1988, p. 101.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 4, 1987, p. 10.
The New York Times Book Review. XCII, October 18, 1987, p. 12.
People Weekly. XXVIII, October 19, 1987, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXII, September 25, 1987, p. 95.
Time. CXXX, September 28, 1987, p. 68.
The Washington Post Book World. XVII, October 4, 1987, p. 9.
(The entire section is 61 words.)