As much as I am known as someone who “never reads fiction,” the reality is that I did read about the first half of the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s works and I do enjoy a good short story. (And I sometime hope to read a lot more Charles Dickens.) 
 
I have a number of links with Kurt. Vonnegut worked as a young man in the PR department at General Electric in Schenectady, NY. This gave him a lifelong love of scientific stuff. Vonnegut’s world was hopefully broadened by a few years at the college I attended, the University of Chicago. And perhaps he got his fervent imagination growing up in Indiana, like I did. He was from a family of Indianapolis architects and scientists. One of them designed the Anderson Banking Company headquarters building where I worked summers and which still stands downtown in my hometown. (He once pointed out that Hoosiers — people from Indiana — not the meek, would inherit the world.)  When I was in the book business, I met him very briefly once. And when I entered college in 1969 his greatest works were all the rage among people my age, right up there with those of JD Salinger, Carlos Castaneda, and Herman Hesse.
 
I will let you do your own digging on which novels to read – I think his first 6 or 7 were his best, including Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. I also loved his great short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House. But this post is about a recently-released collection of never-before-published stories that were found after his death: Look at the Birdie (Delacorte Press, 2009).
 
Vonnegut’s stories (and novels) usually combine interestingly named characters doing even more bizarre things in a strange but familiar world. The title story, Look at the Birdie, is one of my favorites, with a great ending twist. But they are all intriguing. Most are short and sweet –great bedtime reading. This author had one of the most fertile imaginations of the twentieth century, and I expect – and hope – his works will only become more revered as 20th century classics as time goes forward.






 

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