Look at the Birdie

Yet another book added to my library via a truly wonderful bookish friend and one I managed to read in under a week.  This is the first posthumous release of Vonnegut’s (I don’t know if there will be others but, just in case, “first” it is) and coincidentally the first set of short stories I’ve read by him.  I previously reviewed “Slaughterhouse Five” and rather became a Vonnegut fan girl despite never having finished “Cat’s Cradle” and so was pretty excited about this very unexpected gift – both from my friend and just really awesomely enjoyable reading.

This collection is comprised of thirteen short stories and several of Vonnegut’s own line drawings.  Some of the stories are intensely dark while others almost carry the flavor of whimsy – ironically enough the most whimsical one is titled FUBAR which stands for “Fowled Up Beyond All Recognition” (I learned that “f” stood for something else – use your “R” rated imaginations for that one folks).  This focuses on the story of a man who seems stuck in a dead end job that gives him no excitement and hardly anything to do.  But, I must admit my favorites in the book are Ed Luby’s Key Club and Petrified Ants.  Both are incredibly dark tales, the first being the longest in the book, but have incredible and meaningful messages about humanity contained within.  While one is overwhelmingly hopeful the other gives us the flip side and together they demonstrate the varied degrees and issues that go with power.

If you’re not familiar with Vonnegut’s style here is one of the best openings I’ve read in a goodly long time from Confido, the first story in the collection:

The Summer had died peacefully in its sleep, and Autumn, as soft-spoken executrix, was locking life up safely until Spring came to claim it.  At one with this sad, sweet allegory outside the kitchen window of her small home was Ellen Bowers, who, early in the morning, was preparing Tuesday breakfast for her husband, Henry.  Henry was gasping and dancing and slapping himself in a cold shower on the other side of a thin wall.

It’s  a very quick read and overwhelmingly good writing to partake of.  Definitely glad I can place this amongst my many shelves of books.


8 responses to “Look at the Birdie

  • Carol Kilgore

    Beautiful opening passage. I wish I wrote half as well. I haven’t read Vonnegut in a long while. Maybe it’s time I revisit him. Thanks.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I’m a newcomer to Vonnegut’s work (shame on me) but have not regretted my sojourn into it. Well, I might have questioned it at one point… I feel the same way, too. 🙂

  • Mae

    I read Slaughterhouse Five after seeing so much enthusiasm for it online raves from many Vonnegut-ites. I liked the book but can’t say I’m exactly hooked onto his writing.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I had heard before reading “Slaughterhouse” that Vonnegut’s short stories were wonderful and, perhaps, where he excelled. Based upon my own very limited experience with his writing I would say that’s true. I have yet to attempt any of his other works at this point (excepting “Cat’s Cradle” which I just might go back and revisit so I can actually finish it).

  • Helen Ginger

    Been so long since I read Vonnegut. This may be one that pulls me back to him. Thanks.

    Straight From Hel

  • Joanne

    I like to veer off into short stories from time to time, and like the sound of this one. What I also like is that Vonnegut’s line drawings are included in the book. What a nice way to see further his interpretations of the stories. I have a small collection of illustrated novels, so maybe that drawing aspect appeals to that interest.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I truly can’t recommend it enough, Joanne. The illustrations, I don’t think, represent the stories themselves – at least not so I could discern them to be – but they’re quite remarkable.

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