A colleague from another magazine that works next to mine wandered over and picked up my library copy of Jailbird and commented that Vonnegut was a tight writer but weird. That didn’t seem to bother him so I recommended this book promising it would match both of those requirements.
The comment about tightness is particularly apt because things do fall into place and the same sort of feeling of time travel you get in Slaughterhouse 5 is here but based on memory rather than alien intervention. There is only one place where the reader realises what is happening long before Vonnegut tells you but then he pulls the authority over the story back with a twist that you did not see coming.
Bullet points between pages 130 – 202
* Things go from odd to odder for Walter Starbuck as he greets his old friend, the one he put in prison, who thanks him for the opportunity to discover that life is meant to be a trial
* But their discussion is interrupted by a mad bag lady who identifies Walter and then starts trying to talk to him – you realise that is his second great love from his communist activist days – and he finally recognises her as Mary Kathleen
* He hugs her and she drags him to a secret area in central station and then up to the top of the Chrysler building where for some reason Walter decides to tell the owner of the American harp company that he has some stolen clarinet parts to sell
* While waiting for the police, which he doesn’t know are coming, he tells his old flame about all the nice people he has met since he left prison ranging from the prison guard to his old friend who he had helped put in jail
* He is then whisked off to jail and dumped in the basement in a padded cell where he goes through the motions of having a breakdown before one of the best lawyers in the city comes to spring him
* The reasons why the lawyer has come is because the bag lady turns out to be one of the richest women in America the secret force behind the RAMJAC corporation which has been mentioned throughout the book owning everything from Sesame Street to MacDonald’s
* In the car are all of the people that Starbuck has mentioned to the bag lady and they are dragged off to the public face of RAMJAC to be told that because they are virtuous people they are to be given executive jobs in the company