LOOK AT THE BIRDIE by Kurt Vonnegut


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Early, unpublished work from the much-lauded and much-loved American writer.

The foreword by his friend Sidney Offit portrays Vonnegut (1922–2007) as being in his private life very much like the man we know from his fiction: a gimlet-eyed, cantankerous, but always openhearted observer of the human condition. Readers will discover traces of that Vonnegut here. In “Shout About It from the Housetops,” a traveling salesman who finds himself in the middle of an embattled couple’s marital drama thinks, “I was sure now that both the husband and wife were crazy, and that, if there were any children, the children would be crazy as bedbugs, too. There obviously wasn’t anybody around who could be counted on to make regular payments on storm windows.” These words capture both the character and the callous earnestness of a low-level capitalist. It’s also clear that Vonnegut’s gift for believably absurd monikers emerged early; anyone who admires the singular genius of the name Kilgore Trout will likely appreciate Fuzz Littler and K. Hollomon Weems. But despite the occasional flickers of brilliance, the collection as a whole is not very good. Offit mentions O. Henry in his foreword, but The Twilight Zone would be a more apt comparison; the stories’ unvarying structure—setup followed by shocking twist—is strikingly similar to that of the TV show. Though obviously of value to anyone interested in Vonnegut’s artistic development, this edition suffers from a lack of context. The pieces are not dated, nor are we told whether they went unpublished because they were rejected or because the author was dissatisfied with them.

For ultra-committed fans and Vonnegut scholars only.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-34371-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009


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