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Welcome to the Monkey House: A Collection of Short Works Paperback – September 8, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Listeners are in for a treat as a masterful cast animates many of Vonnegut's finest short pieces. Vonnegut colors his oft-wondrous works with memorable characters, fantastic realities, pitch-perfect dialogue and heapings of satire and humor—a tall order for any audio actor. But this group of narrators are veterans of screen and stage, each with a unique voice as malleable as clay. It's hard to find fault with this production. Occasionally, Tucci and Irwin oversoften their voices, and listeners may find themselves reaching for the volume. Otherwise, there are very few blemishes. Baker is outstanding in "All the King's Horses" and "The Hyannis Port Story." Strathairn shines on "Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog" and "The Lie." Tucci handles with ease the predominantly male pieces "Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son" and "Manned Missiles." Irwin inhabits every character. The robust Roberts is both commanding and wry. Given the fertile material and the collective talent of the cast, listeners should expect nothing less than excellence here. They won't be disappointed. Available in paperback from Dell. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“He strips the flesh from bone and makes you laugh while he does it. . . . There are twenty-five stories here, and each hits a nerve ending.”—Charlotte Observer
“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist.”—Time
“A great artist.”—Cincinnati Enquirer
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Top customer reviews
On the one hand, the short stories are wonderful and showcase some of Vonnegut's earlier writing. On the other hand, the Kindle edition would likely embarrass any author, and particularly one whose precision of language was equal to Kurt Vonnegut's. Specifically, the book appears to have been created by scanning a hard copy and then using optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert the images to letters, without making an effort to even so much as electronically verify that the OCR got it right (e.g. even a Word grammar checker would have turned up most of the obvious mistakes). This results in an almost verbatim rendering of the original, but not quite. In the Kindle version it is quite jarring to find, for example, the word "mat" appearing nonsensically in the middle of some sentences where the word "that" was plainly intended. Two examples: "It was in this news mat Nancy perceived a glint of hope" or "Why, honey bunch, they call mat truth serum." Mostly, "that" shows up correctly, but not always. Perhaps the most obnoxious example is in the short story "Deer in the Works" where a character's name is first given as "Lou Flammer" then inexplicably switches for a few pages to "Lou Hammer" and then switches back to last name "Flammer" again. Vonnegut doesn't make those sorts of mistakes. Kindle does, and it is a shame to do it to a writer of such ability. Nevertheless, what Vonnegut writes in these short stories are entertaining, thought provoking, disturbing, and somewhat of a time capsule for the mindset of America in the 1950s and early 60s. My only suggestion is to buy a hard copy version and read what Vonnegut actually wrote, instead.
When reading through the collection, one notices the divide between his more sincere writing attempts versus the outright satire. However, it wouldn't be Vonnegut if the biting humor didn't have a tinge of solemnity to it. "Welcome to the Monkey House" is such a story, where an over-puritanized world is terrorized by hedonist revolutionaries. Prescient? Perhaps - but I don't like to dip into total socio-political discourse within literary reviews. Maybe I'll save it for the blog?
Other stories that stuck with me: "Miss Temptation" - a Bohemian girl gets reprimanded by an Army veteran, obviously traumatized from his experience; "All The King's Men" - somewhat horrific, where a chess game is played with humans, where a character is killed when eliminated from the game.
Overall, the stories bring to mind Vonnegut's persistent mockery of bureaucracies, inhumanity of humans, and personalized trauma.
He's genius. This book of short stories will have you laughing and pondering mankind.
If you like the show - Black Mirror - then you'll probably love this book.
I always liked Vonnegut's early works, but one of the things that made them entertaining was how "out there" they were.
Two short stories in it have anticipated current events with such accuracy that they're just short of terrifying. Harrison Bergeron hit the No Child Left Behind dumbing down of the US so close to the mark as to be scary.
But the scariest--and I mean really scared for my life and that of loved ones--is the title story: Welcome to the Monkey House. In this people are encouraged to visit state-sponsored Suicide Parlors to help cut back on their uses of resources. There are incentives--like a last supper to die for--but the bottom line is that once you sign on the line, it's adios.
And now we have a bill before Congress, part of which requires--REQUIRES!!--older Americans to be counseled at least every four years about their medical situations, and consider only palliative care rather than potentially curative treatments.
How did Vonnegut do it? Crystal ball? Where do I get one? Of course, he may have been "standing on the shoulders of giants." Ship of Fools, recapped the Nazi thrust to feed the productive and exclude caring for the aged, who they saw as drains on resources.