As a "reporter on the afterlife," Kurt Vonnegut bravely allows himself to be strapped to a gurney by his friend Jack Kevorkian and dispatched-round-trip-to the Pearly Gates. Or at least that's what he claims in the introduction to this series of brief pieces originally read as 90-second interludes on WNYC, Manhattan's public radio station.
Revised and rewritten for this slim volume, Vonnegut's "interviews" range from the gossamer-slight to the deliciously barbed. Among the dead people he is privileged to talk to are Salvatore Biagini, a retired construction worker who died of a heart attack while rescuing his schnauzer from a pit bull; John Brown, still smoldering 140 years after his death by hanging; William Shakespeare, who spouts quotations and rubs Vonnegut the wrong way; and one of Vonnegut's own personal heroes, socialist and labor leader Eugene Victor Debs.
The tables are turned on Vonnegut when he runs into Sir Isaac Newton, who is lurking near the Heaven end of the "blue tunnel" of the Afterlife. Newton, tireless in his quest for knowledge, wants to find out what the tunnel is made of, and he takes over the interview, besieging Vonnegut with questions. Unfazed, the writer moves on, looking up Martin Luther King's assassin, James Earl Ray, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. It is only when Dr. Kevorkian is inconveniently convicted for murder that Vonnegut is forced to desist.
This may be Vonnegut (or his publishers) scraping the bottom of the barrel, but no matter: there are few writers whose scrapings we'd rather have.