BOOKS: VONNGUT: TIME WARPED

VONNEGUT TRIES, BUT FAILS, TO RELIVE HIS PAST GLORY

Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake (Putnam; 219 pages; $23.95) is a salvage job, a reprocessing of what the author calls the "best parts" of an unpublished novel that did not work. This revision is a mix of autobiographical bits, plot concepts, barbershop cynicism and romantic idealism, all loosely tied together by a standard science-fiction device: on Feb. 13, 2001, a quirk in space-time flips the calendar back 10 years to Feb. 17, 1991. From that moment, everyone in the world is fated to repeat the decade in every living detail.

Without a driving story, Timequake depends entirely on the author's familiar tone of...

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