Books: Goodbye Indianapolis

SLAPSTICK by KURT VONNEGUT 243 pages . Delacorte. $7.95

Love conquers nothing in Kurt Vonnegut's fiction. Instead, love is a strategic withdrawal from a threatening world where even the best intentions can cause suffering and chaos. With Slapstick, that withdrawal seems complete. The novel, a linking of autobiography and fantasy, is an aggressive retreat not only from the complications of society but also from the invention and charm of the author's early novels.

The book, says Vonnegut, "is about what life feels like to me." That feeling might be described as the phantom ache an...