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Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction Hardcover – October 20, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038534371X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385343718
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of unpublished fiction sheds light on Vonnegut's early writing, but fails to measure up to the rest of his formidable oeuvre. The stories are brief, vividly imagined and sometimes carry a science-fictional twist with a moral (of sorts), not unlike Harrison Bergeron. In Confido, for instance, an inventor manufactures a device that whispers to its users everything they want to hear, with special emphasis on their worst desires and suspicions, while the title story describes an interaction at a bar between a disgruntled man and a self-styled murder counselor who has come up with an ingenious method for killing people. Sidney Offit, Vonnegut's longtime friend, notes in an introduction that it's possible these stories went unpublished because they didn't satisfy the author. To be sure, they lack the polish and humor of the author's best-known work. Nevertheless, for devotees, they provide an instructive view of Vonnegut's talent in the making. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Look at the Birdie is a collection of fourteen previously unpublished short stories from one of the most original writers in all of American fiction. In this series of perfectly rendered vignettes, written just as he was starting to find his comic voice, Kurt Vonnegut paints a warm, wise, and funny portrait of life in post—World War II America–a world where squabbling couples, high school geniuses, misfit office workers, and small-town lotharios struggle to adapt to changing technology, moral ambiguity, and unprecedented affluence.

Here are tales both cautionary and hopeful, each brimming with Vonnegut’s trademark humor and profound humanism. A family learns the downside of confiding their deepest secrets into a magical invention. A man finds himself in a Kafkaesque world of trouble after he runs afoul of the shady underworld boss who calls the shots in an upstate New York town. A quack psychiatrist turned “murder counselor” concocts a novel new outlet for his paranoid patients. While these stories reflect the anxieties of the postwar era that Vonnegut was so adept at capturing–and provide insight into the development of his early style–collectively, they have a timeless quality that makes them just as relevant today as when they were written. It’s impossible to imagine any of these pieces flowing from the pen of another writer; each in its own way is unmistakably, quintessentially Vonnegut.

Featuring a Foreword by author and longtime Vonnegut confidant Sidney Offit and illustrated with Vonnegut’s characteristically insouciant line drawings, Look at the Birdie is an unexpected gift for readers who thought his unique voice had been stilled forever–and serves as a terrific introduction to his short fiction for anyone who has yet to experience his genius.

More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

Customer Reviews

I like this book and enjoyed reading all the stories in it.
lalaglitzy
To be brief, this collection of unpublished short fiction is a must read for anyone who has ever felt that the works of Kurt Vonnegut spoke to them in any way.
M. Howell
I only felt disappointment when I finished the last page of the last story.
W. L. LaCroix

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By javajunki TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This newly published collection of Kurt Vonnegut short "stories" is a worthy addition to your personal library and a delight for fans - especially those that enjoy reading the full breadth of his writing style. While some of the selections display the quick wit with a twist so common to his more popular works, others border on the bizarre...of course, each has the element of surprise that only Vonnegut does so well.

Contents include:
Confido
FUBAR
Shout About it from the Housetops
A Song for Selma
Hall of Mirrors
The Nice Little People
Hello, Red
Little Drops of Water
The Petrified Ants

The book is hardcover with dustjacket and contains just over 200 pages of pure pleasure reading...the type that makes literature worth the time and effort to slow down, read and reflect upon. Unlike authors of the past, Vonnegut reflects modern society and is often compared to the likes of Twain etc... with an up-to-date appeal that makes it relevant yet refreshing.

Very enjoyable - superb gift idea for Vonnegut fans!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By dennisqdw on December 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Like the other reviewers I was overjoyed for an opportunity to have something new (and old) to read by the master. These stories are well written, sweet, often surprising and relatively wholesome compared to later work. They also very much reflect a much more innocent era. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who has read Vonnegut's other work. However, let's keep this in perspective. If we save 5 stars for his masterpieces like Cat's Cradle, and maybe four for somewhat lesser books, then we have to be honest and give this one a 3.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Edgar Mihelic on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much better than the last two bits of material. These are stories from the front end of his climb to becoming the best American writer since Twain. The other stuff I'd heard before but read greedily like a man thirsting for his last breath. While these stories don't equal his best known works, they are worth the time of someone who has idolized the man and his writing. But if that is true, you probably aren't reading this. Give it a whirl, what have you got to lose?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Durling Heath on February 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Frankly, I had never been terribly impressed with Kurt Vonnegut's short fiction. It seemed his best short stories were the ones he didn't write, but rather referred to in the context of some of his novels. Okay, yes, the shorts in "Welcome to the Monkey House" and "Bagombo Snuff Box" were generally okay, but really nothing compared to the value and importance of his novels. While a sort of short story mediocrity still permeates "Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction," there are a few gems here.

Sidney Offit writes in the Foreward, "Unpublished is not a word we identify with a Kurt Vonnegut short story. It may well be that these stories didn't appear in print because for one reason or another they didn't satisfy Kurt." Offit's comment is a little ironic because, in my humble opinion, two of Vonnegut's best short stories are included in this collection. The first, "Hello, Red," in which an embittered war veteran returns home to claim what he believes is his due, builds suspense in a world of complex adult emotions only to be undone by the simple, dramatic act of a beautiful red-haired eight-year old girl. In the second, a determined young woman wedges her way into the life and heart of a womanizing, bachelor whose tragic flaw is an obsessive-compulsive disorder in the story entitled, "Little Drops of Water."

In all, there are 14 stories. A regular character in many of Vonnegut's previous short stories, high school band teacher George M. Helmholtz, shows up to teach a lesson about both privacy and potential in "A Song for Selma," an unscrupulous hypnotist gets what he deserves in "Hall of Mirrors," an a murderer is brought to justice by a wily small-town cop and an innocent, bright-eyed delivery boy in "The Honor of a Newsboy.
Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gwen Rosewater on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What a fabolous thing to get another volume of Vonnegut stories. Despite the fact that they were never published, I am finding the best of them to be better than those gathered in 'Bagombo Snuff Box'. No, these stories aren't in league with the classics of 'Welcome to the Monkey House', but they are solid and they bear the authors unmistakable stamp, and that is plenty.
I would reserve a five star rating for his best work, but this deserves four- no mean feat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Inna on November 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book so much, I'm speechless. I feel like a little kid in a candy store. This is such a delight and I cannot stop reading. I don't want to work, I don't want to sleep! I just want to read this book!
I cannot believe it was never published before. What a wonderful surprise for any Vonnegut fan!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roy A. Blokker on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one would expect, these are brilliant stories crisply told, obviously earlier works well polished. Vonnegut had an eye for character and an ear for dialogue, and a wonderful, often whimsical sense of setting and story line. What is missing in almost all of these stories is that oddity, or suspension of belief required in satirical -- or any -- science fiction. Missing but not missed. These stories sparkle with humor and delicately recreated observation of various aspects of human nature. they adhere to the concept that what is truly interesting is what people think and do. They are delicious from start to finish, and make us hope there are more byrued treasures in Vonnegut's ouvre wairing to be uncovered!
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