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Look at the Birdie: Short Fiction Paperback – September 7, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385343728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385343725
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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Look at the Birdie is a collection of fourteen previously unpublished short stories from one of the most original writers in all of American fiction.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.


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him, in the words of The New York Times, as “a true artist” with the publication of Cat’s Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.

Sidney Offit has written two novels, two memoirs, and ten books for young readers. He was a senior editor of Intellectual Digest and a book editor of Politics Today, and for three decades he has served on the boards of the Authors Guild and PEN American Center. Currently, Mr. Offit is the curator emeritus of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. He lives in New York City with his wife, Avodah.


From the Hardcover edition.

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

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
A great collection of short stories that any Kurt Vonnegut fan is sure to enjoy.
MotionCityDesign
I've read confido and these stories are just long enought to get a good reading in, but also not so long that it takes more than a sitting to read one.
Kristina Hoeller
In a short pages you gain an understanding of the main characters, their plight, and a punchy ending that ties everything together.
ConcupusAl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By EllenL on December 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
I admit I've never read Vonnegut's famous novels... But these short stories served as a splendid introduction to the author's sharp wit and uncanny timing. The stories kept me engrossed during a long, dreary airplane flight. After recently slogging through one of those "Best Short Stories of 2010" anthologies full of formulaic magazine fiction, this collection struck me as modern, fresh, and unexpected. I will never think about girls from the typing pool, or miniature rocket ships, in quite the same way.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Edgar Mihelic on January 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra Johnson on December 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful assortment of stories, my favorite in fact. Always my go-to for reading on the subway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ConcupusAl on May 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
Vonnegut is one of those rare talents that is a master of both novels and short stories. I admire both forms of prose but find that where one succeeds in one field, it rarely translate to the other. His short stories have well filled out characters with a tightly told story that leaves to a satisfying conclusion. In a short pages you gain an understanding of the main characters, their plight, and a punchy ending that ties everything together. Needless to say but I'm a fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kristi on December 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the first Vonnegut book I ever picked up. A fun, great selection of stories -- it got me hooked.
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Format: Paperback
This posthumous collection of 14 unpublished early-1950s stories by Kurt Vonnegut (KV; 1922-2007) was endorsed by his estate. Why they remained in a drawer so long is not explained. Did he question their intrinsic value? Were they submitted and rejected by publications that often bought his stories? Did he cannibalize them for use in later literary outputs? Only scholars can tell and this collection will no doubt spawn more research on America’s most humanistic author.
Are the stories as good as the reviews say? In my humble opinion, no. Each one is unmistakably written by KV and a product from the mind of one of the most imaginative writers ever: KV simply never struggled to find a voice of his own. They reflect the post WW-II new wealth In the US (and its losers), KVs fear of bureaucracy, central control and constant oversight, and his use of SF-type stories to highlight them. And much else. This book foreshadows many of KVs future themes and novels.
The trouble with these stories concerns writing technique: all stories start promising, then somewhere, usually not very far from the finishing line, things go wrong, technically. A stern editor would have marked where things went wrong. But at the time of writing, KV struggled to make a living to support his family. If a story was bought, the buyer did the final editing. If not, tough luck. The Introduction describes KV as a persistent rewriter. Did he really despair and give up about the stories presented is this volume, think they were beyond repair and rescue? Live and learn from said scholars of literature.
This reader enjoyed this collection, seeing the enormous early potential of KV confirmed. But rewarding it with 5 or even 4 stars is over the top. None of the 14 stories is great, so what more can be said than saying that they are quite OK?
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While I love Vonnegut's novels, there is something to be said about his way with shorter works. He is a master at his craft and every short story seems to be crafted and worked so that every single word packs a punch. Again, can't recommend Vonnegut enough. Do it. Now.
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