Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Released: 1990

Still lucid in the '90s, as proven by his final efforts of essays later in the decade and in the early aughts before his death (God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, A Man Without A Country, etc.), Kurt Vonnegut's penultimate novel was well-worn ground by this point: Globalization, race, class, the usual.

Yet, this one was a jumbled effort. The subtlety normally present in Vonnegut's books takes a backseat to heavy-handed hammering of points. The most forgettable Vonnegut protagonist, fired college professor Eugene Debs Hartke (and yes, he knows he shares his name with Eugene Debs), spends much of the book counting the number of women he's slept with and people he killed in Vietnam, when he isn't coughing from tuberculosis (which we know as the word "Cough" is interspersed throughout the text). When he goes to teach at a prison, and then, back at the college after it's taken over by prisoners, lessons are ostensibly learned and values imparted.

But for Vonnegut's greatest assault on academia, you'd expect something smarter, or headier; unfortunately, Hocus Pocus was Vonnegut at his angriest and most scathing, which translated to a loss of everything that makes the man's crucial work so special. —Foster Kamer