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Look at the Birdie is a collection of fourteen previously unpublished short stories from one of the most original writers in all of American fiction.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in post—World War II America–a world where squabbling coup Look at the Birdie is a collection of fourteen previously unpublished short stories from one of the most original writers in all of American fiction.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. Contents: Letter from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., to Walter J. Miller, 1951. Confido F U B A R Shout About It from the Housetops Ed Luby's Key Club A Song for Selma Hall of Mirrors The Nice Little People Hello, Red Little Drops of Water The Petrified Ants The Honor of a Newsboy Look at the Birdie King and Queen of the Universe The Good Explainer


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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 coup 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. Contents: Letter from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., to Walter J. Miller, 1951. Confido F U B A R Shout About It from the Housetops Ed Luby's Key Club A Song for Selma Hall of Mirrors The Nice Little People Hello, Red Little Drops of Water The Petrified Ants The Honor of a Newsboy Look at the Birdie King and Queen of the Universe The Good Explainer

30 review for Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    JSou

    Kurt Vonnegut has always been one of my favorite authors; he was one of the very first writers that was able to change the way I think. I had always loved books, but after my first encounter with KV in high school, I amazingly realized what a novel could actually do. But it's more than than that. Vonnegut has always reminded me of my grandpa, though thinking about it, I'm not really sure why. The only things I know of that they had in common were their age, WWII, and Pall Mall cigarettes. Maybe Kurt Vonnegut has always been one of my favorite authors; he was one of the very first writers that was able to change the way I think. I had always loved books, but after my first encounter with KV in high school, I amazingly realized what a novel could actually do. But it's more than than that. Vonnegut has always reminded me of my grandpa, though thinking about it, I'm not really sure why. The only things I know of that they had in common were their age, WWII, and Pall Mall cigarettes. Maybe it's that reading KV's books have clued me in to a side of my grandpa I was never able to know. So many times, I would ask him about his experiences during WWII, only to hear, "Aww honey, you don't want to hear about all that." Then he would quickly tell a joke to change the subject. This man, who practically raised me, and gave me everything else I'd ever wanted, never gave me that. I didn't know if he really just didn't want to talk about it; I mean, who knows what he saw and what things he had to do over there. I remember my grandma telling me that he never even said much about it to her. She told me he thought it was inappropriate to talk about certain things in front of women. It's not that he thought women were inferior, to him it was a matter of respect. He was from a different era, that's just how he was. Awhile ago, my GR friend Cait sent me a great article about Vonnegut attending the Connecticut Forum shortly before he passed away. At the interview, Joyce Carol Oates went all feminist on him in front of everybody. After reading that, I still can't bring myself to read one of her books. Bitch. (JCO, not my friend Cait) Seriously Joyce, he's an old man. Lay. The. Fuck. Off. I'm not sure when all of these stories were written, but some of the ideas in them do seem a bit dated. Most of them wouldn't seem spectacular to anyone who hasn't read any Vonnegut before, but considering the sub-title of the book, Unpublished Short Fiction, I'm okay with the fact it wasn't a phenomonal collection. Who knows if Vonnegut, who was always re-writing, even wanted these to ever be published? One high point, this book has some of KV's illustrations that I'd never seen before. (yay, pictures!!!) Here's my favorite, drawn only a few months before he died. Reading this felt like it gave me an extra inside look into Vonnegut. Kind of like finding a picture or letter from a loved one who's passed away. No matter what it looks like, or what it says, it still feels like a treasure. Certain things can remind us of who people actually were, and this book shows that Kurt Vonnegut above all, was a writer. In my eyes, just like my grandpa, there is nothing he could do that I wouldn't absolutely love.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Abhinav

    THIS IS AMAZING. Put that on repeat 13 more times - for all the 14 short stories in this compilation. Like I said in my only status update while reading this, it seems unbelievable that these stories, written in the early part of Vonnegut's career, never saw the light of day until two years after his death. This is the second such compilation of short fiction by him published posthumously (four have been released till date, the first being 'Armageddon in Retrospect'). I happened to read somewhere t THIS IS AMAZING. Put that on repeat 13 more times - for all the 14 short stories in this compilation. Like I said in my only status update while reading this, it seems unbelievable that these stories, written in the early part of Vonnegut's career, never saw the light of day until two years after his death. This is the second such compilation of short fiction by him published posthumously (four have been released till date, the first being 'Armageddon in Retrospect'). I happened to read somewhere that Vonnegut wrote these 'purely for money' & they were rejected by the 'slick' magazines of that time. Perhaps, the editors might have realised that the stories appearing in their own magazines wouldn't possibly match up to these. The stories in this compilation dabble in a variety of genres - ranging from sci-fi to romance to whodunit to allegory to Depression-era coming-of-age tales to life's tragicomedies. There is a maverick inventor who creates a billion-dollar talking machine that delves into the darkest recesses of one's mind ('Confido') & then they are tiny beings who fly around in a spaceship that looks like a paper knife ('The Nice Little People'). You have a dull, boring PR officer whose bright new assistant gives him love & his life back ('FUBAR'), a squabbling couple who have lost love on account of one spouse finding fame ('Shout About It from the Housetops') & then you see two naive rich love birds having their first brush against poverty in the Depression era ('King and Queen of the Universe'). There are two tales of crime & mystery too - 'Ed Luby's Key Club' moves at the blistering pace of a thriller while 'The Honor of the Newsboy' is a classic whodunit. And let's not forget the one from which the compilation gets its title, where a once-upon-a-time quack finds a new way to make his living. My personal favourite, however, has to be 'The Petrified Ants' - all I can say that for me, it's somewhat of a short story equivalent of George Orwell's two greatest works. I'm not kidding. True, there are always a few stories that aren't probably as good as the best of the lot. But in each of the stories here, you find that touch of humanity in the narrative, the raw emotions, the deep understanding of how people react to different situations & Vonnegut's uncanny ability to find humour in the unlikeliest of places. The storytelling is simplistic & straightforward but yet so good & pleasant to read. 4.5 to 5 stars for 'Look at the Birdie' by Kurt Vonnegut. This happened to be the first time I'm reading Vonnegut & this definitely won't be the last, since I'm a fan already. Highly recommended for those who enjoy short stories & fans of the author, for it does provide valuable insight into the making of one of America's greatest post-war writers. P.S. Watch out for the illustrations throughout the course of this book. One heck of a talented artist that Vonnegut chap was.

  3. 5 out of 5

    William Thomas

    When I was 16 and started working my way through the Vonnegut library, the man could do no wrong. That is, until I turned 22 and read Jailbird. What an awful piece of shit that book turned out to be. And now that I've read all of his major and minor works, save some of his post-Timequake work, I can stand back and analyze it without being so starry-eyed as I was in younger years. Even though he was my first literary love, and will always be number one in my heart, I can honestly say that these w When I was 16 and started working my way through the Vonnegut library, the man could do no wrong. That is, until I turned 22 and read Jailbird. What an awful piece of shit that book turned out to be. And now that I've read all of his major and minor works, save some of his post-Timequake work, I can stand back and analyze it without being so starry-eyed as I was in younger years. Even though he was my first literary love, and will always be number one in my heart, I can honestly say that these works could have remained unpublished and the world would have been just the same. If we could somehow cut approximately 60% of these stories, the book would have been more powerful and 5 stars. However, it is perfectly clear why some of these stories remained unpublished and uncollected for so long. because they stink to high heaven. And if you don't like what I have to say about it then why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Reading an author’s posthumous, previously unpublished work never sits completely right for me. In almost any forward of a deceased author’s “uncovered work” you can find someone vouching for the guy (or gal) as being a real stickler for editing, a tireless craftsman, someone who always wanted to get each turn of phrase just right. And I get that. It really resonates. Anyone who has ever written anything would be mortified to have an unprepared version of it sent out to an audience of strangers, Reading an author’s posthumous, previously unpublished work never sits completely right for me. In almost any forward of a deceased author’s “uncovered work” you can find someone vouching for the guy (or gal) as being a real stickler for editing, a tireless craftsman, someone who always wanted to get each turn of phrase just right. And I get that. It really resonates. Anyone who has ever written anything would be mortified to have an unprepared version of it sent out to an audience of strangers, especially if the person’s literary credentials were on the line. So, that said, how to go about reading LatB? It’s nice, mostly tidy collection of short fiction. Most of the stories sit more firmly on the realism side of the fence than on the sci-fi one, but Vonnegut can shine on either. Perhaps it’s best to review each story individually then. Confido- Eerie enough with a finish a bit like an episode of the twilight zone. 4 stars Fubar- Ho hum. Youth vs old age. 2 stars Shout it from the housetops-I had to go back to remember what this story was even about. Perils of creation and all that. Suburban monotony? 3 stars Ed Luby’s Key Club- Great premise, riveting story, likable characters, Kafkaesque problems. The end moves quicker than I would have liked. This felt like notes for a novel too... 4.5 stars A Song for Selma- The worst of the lot. Some humor. Not enough. 1 Star. Hall of Mirrors- Maybe the best story in the collection for my money. Again, the ending felt a bit rushed, but this had some excellent narrative control. 5 Stars. The Nice Little People- Tralfamadorians? Proto-Tralfamadorians? This felt most like the Vonnegut of Cats Cradle, Slaughterhouse V, and Sirens of Titan. Great voice. Most complete feeling of all the stories. 5 stars. Hello, Red- Goodbye, Red. 1 Star. Little Drops of Water- I don’t even recall. 1 Star The Petrified Ants- Better left submerged, methinks. 1 Star The Honor of a Newsboy- Pleasantly quaint, though I imagine some might be turned off by how aged it feels. 3 stars. Look at the Birdie- Quick and cutthroat. 4 stars. King and Queen of the Universe- Ho hum domestic yarn. 2 stars. The Good Explainer- A weak ending to a decent collection of stories. I was ready for this one to be over. 2 stars. And really I was ready for the collection to be over throughout most of the listen. There are some seriously nice nuggets of writing here, and Vonnegut is never truly deplorable, but so much of this collection should have been laid to rest with the author. So it goes. 2.5 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    so, so brilliant. i can't tell you how happy this book made me! i got it for christmas from a friend and i don't know if he got it randomly or he really knows me, cause it was filled with short stories with happy endings. aka my absolute favorite kind of stories. i can't tell you how many times i smiled or laughed- i'm truly upset that i'm done!!! if anyone knows any other books similar to this one, please feel freeeee to let me know of them :)

  6. 5 out of 5

    AdiTurbo

    Two or three brilliant stories, a few sharp one-liners, and the rest is quite mediocre, not up to Vonnegut's usual standards. I can see why this stuff hasn't been published before.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Missy (myweereads)

    “Do we all have to bleed, before we can believe each other?” Look At The Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut is a collection of short stories from his earlier career. Previously unpublished, they showcase his unique skills readers have come to love. The subject matter vary from good versus evil, science fiction, human nature, social influence and many others. This was my first read by Vonnegut therefore I had no idea what to expect. Instantly the first story pulled at my heart strings and left me shocked. The “Do we all have to bleed, before we can believe each other?” Look At The Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut is a collection of short stories from his earlier career. Previously unpublished, they showcase his unique skills readers have come to love. The subject matter vary from good versus evil, science fiction, human nature, social influence and many others. This was my first read by Vonnegut therefore I had no idea what to expect. Instantly the first story pulled at my heart strings and left me shocked. The story is called “Confido”, it’s about a salesman who creates the ultimate hearing aid which is more than what it appears to be. Others which stood out for me were “Shout About It From The Housetops”, “A Song For Selma”, “Hall Of Mirrors”, “The Honor Of A Newsboy”, Look At The Birdie” and “The Good Explainer”. These all had elements which had me tense, laughing at parts which were dark, surprised and unsettled. Vonnegut’s use of language and timing made the stories so unique and enjoyable. I hadn’t even gone through the first two when I knew I had to read more by him. This book is a good taster into his work and has me ready to read more. A definite recommended read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I have been a Vonnegut fan for years, and just recently received and read this collection of his earlier short stories. And though the San Francisco Chronicle commented that "it seems Vonnegut is working out the kinks in these early attempts," quite frankly, I think it may be my favorite Vonnegut work, and to think it went unpublished for so long is astonishing. Unlike many of his stories, which I find well-written, ironic, hilarious, and cynical, this piece is well-written, ironic, hilarious... I have been a Vonnegut fan for years, and just recently received and read this collection of his earlier short stories. And though the San Francisco Chronicle commented that "it seems Vonnegut is working out the kinks in these early attempts," quite frankly, I think it may be my favorite Vonnegut work, and to think it went unpublished for so long is astonishing. Unlike many of his stories, which I find well-written, ironic, hilarious, and cynical, this piece is well-written, ironic, hilarious... and sweet. I don't know if Vonnegut, as a man, became more cynical with age, as probably happens with lots of bright people, but I get the feeling that this early work shows his brilliance when it was maybe not un-touched by cynicism, but less touched by cynicism. Most of these stories left me with a feeling of hope and tenderness towards mankind. And I only say most because there are two stories that are meant to be on the sad side. What struck me most about this collection was the rare sweetness in Vonnegut's voice. And I think that will stay with me for a long time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    There's a reason for these stories having been unpublished during the author's lifetime--they're not very good. Still, for someone like myself who has pretty much read all of Vonnegut with appreciation for his authorial voice, this book may be worth a look. There are moments in some of the stories which are quite good, either because they are emotionally moving or because they're very funny.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erik Ferguson

    I'll try to avoid spending too much time dwelling on what's already been said about how amazing it is to read for the first time this collection of stories written while Vonnegut was still working for GE. But for just one small point: it is, in fact, important to note that the raw materials with which Vonnegut worked throughout his career -- especially the elements of disillusionment with larger Systems of which his characters find themselves a part; and, unfortunately, themes of some distortion I'll try to avoid spending too much time dwelling on what's already been said about how amazing it is to read for the first time this collection of stories written while Vonnegut was still working for GE. But for just one small point: it is, in fact, important to note that the raw materials with which Vonnegut worked throughout his career -- especially the elements of disillusionment with larger Systems of which his characters find themselves a part; and, unfortunately, themes of some distortion of reality that imply the presence of more real distress in the author's life -- appearing in what might have been called his formative years if he had been significantly younger when these pieces were written. And of course, his dark wit about it all shines through cleanly. To me, though, the most distinctive factor in this collection is that which is the most dissatisfying for someone whose experience with Vonnegut began with Slaughterhouse-Five. A result of the constraint that Vonnegut was – of necessity – writing with the goal of publishing at this time, it’s that he was working with very little room to toy with form. Never has Vonnegut seemed so little like Vonnegut. He does what he can, of course, by consistently exploring the element of surprise. But sadly, some of the endings (especially in the first three pieces in the book) end up being too happy – a bit Hallmark-channelish. The more engrossing pieces, however, work much better. “Little Drops of Water” and “Hall of Mirrors” are probably the best here, and the finishing touches of the otherwise-straightforward “The Nice Little People” leave a taste of Nabokov in the mouth: the right blend of sour and otherworldly. A contemporaneous reader could have well expected that the author would later demonstrate much more capability. Vonnegut was a master when he had room to breathe. This collection illustrates the contrast between his mastery and pre-mastery by showcasing his characteristic punchy-ness, while disallowing him the opportunity to deomonstrate the most important of his traits: his reasons for being punchy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Addie

    As with most collections of short stories, there is good and there is bad. But one of the many reasons why Kurt Vonnegut was so brilliant can be showcased perfectly by this little gem of an opening paragraph: I was sitting in a bar one night, talking rather loudly about a person I hated – and a man with a beard sat down beside me, and he said amiably, “Why don’t you have him killed?” And that's all I need.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    There are some good stories here for any Vonnegut reader. Of course, some are much better than others. 7 of 10 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    তানজীম Rahman)

    It's not a masterpiece by any means, but I genuinely enjoyed the book from start to finish. It's an anthology full of stories that crackle with wit and insight. Some of my favorites were: - Look at the Birdie: a great, darkly funny story about a 'murder consultant' with an interesting twist. - Hall of Mirrors: a neat little story that truly gives you the feeling of being lost in a hall of mirrors. - King and Queen of the Universe: a heartbreaking story that could've done without the saccharine endi It's not a masterpiece by any means, but I genuinely enjoyed the book from start to finish. It's an anthology full of stories that crackle with wit and insight. Some of my favorites were: - Look at the Birdie: a great, darkly funny story about a 'murder consultant' with an interesting twist. - Hall of Mirrors: a neat little story that truly gives you the feeling of being lost in a hall of mirrors. - King and Queen of the Universe: a heartbreaking story that could've done without the saccharine ending, but was pretty memorable regardless. The other stories were good too, but almost all of them suffer from being a little heavy-handed. Vonnegut was Vonnegut though, so the prose is always delightful. Not a life-changing or earth-shattering book, but definitely a great read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karl Griffiths

    How has it taken me this long to even open this book. Kurt Vonnegut is excellent and these short stories are a delight. Twists and turns and delightful insights into different parts of the human condition.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Some hits. Some Misses. Favs: Ed Luby's Key Club, The Honor of a Newsboy and King and Queen of the Universe.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell Pollack

    Look at the Birdie is a great book. Most of the short stories I've read have been Horror, standard campfire fare, and it was refreshing to read something like this. Kurt Vonnegut knows exactly what he's doing, he leads the reader with cautious poise through his strangest imaginings, through warped mirrors into worlds that are subtly perverted versions of our own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    These stories aren't first-rate Vonnegut, but they had enough in them to beguile me on a long feverish achy day as my country drew closer to the drain it's been circling. I'm glad I had them around.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John

    It is inevitable that when an author of Kurt Vonnegut's stature passes away, every scrap attributable to him will be pulled from the back of the pantry for consumption by an insatiable public. We can forgive the impulse to want more from a wellspring which has been so deeply nourishing. But our hunger is rarely satisfied by the leftovers, and "Look at the Birdie" is no exception. The New York Times Book Review is quoted, on the front page, as follows: "Why these stories went unpublished is hard t It is inevitable that when an author of Kurt Vonnegut's stature passes away, every scrap attributable to him will be pulled from the back of the pantry for consumption by an insatiable public. We can forgive the impulse to want more from a wellspring which has been so deeply nourishing. But our hunger is rarely satisfied by the leftovers, and "Look at the Birdie" is no exception. The New York Times Book Review is quoted, on the front page, as follows: "Why these stories went unpublished is hard to answer." This is disingenuous. They went unpublished because Vonnegut clearly recognized what those who have deified him have trouble coming to terms with: they are, on the whole, sub-par in comparison to his body of previously published short stories. This is not to say that these are bad stories. There are no train wrecks here. And several of them hold up well. Opening with a one-two punch, "Confido" is the wry sibling of "The Euphio Question," while "FUBAR" reminds us that life's beauty is in the eye of each beholder. A similar theme is emphasized in "A Song for Selma," while "King and Queen of the Universe" touches on some of the themes that crop up (albeit within a much different context) in "The Sirens of Titan," as it explores the relationship between who we are and who we believe we are. There are some near-misses here, too. "Shout About It from the Housetops," "Hello Red," "Little Drops of Water," and "Hall of Mirrors" are flawed gems which approach the level of Vonnegut's best work, even if they don't quite make it over the goal-line. The remainder of these stories suffer, in short, from contrivance. Vonnegut's weakest works (which are still better than many authors' best) are marked by contrivances which either blunt their impact or render their climaxes predictable. Thus, for example, the conclusion of "Ed Luby's Key Club" is too pat, too convenient, to leave a deep impression. Or, to take another example, the morality play of "The Petrified Ants," broken into three acts with an Epilogue/denouement, is a clear misfire, in that the reader can see the end -- including the moral -- halfway through the second act. Other pieces here, such as "The Nice Little People," or the title piece are too slight and too trite to achieve much impact. Vonnegut must have known that these stories would be collected together and brought to the attention of his ever-adoring fan base. He didn't forbid their publication, nor did he choose to destroy them. It is hard to imagine that he could not foresee their publication. I'd like to think that he had high hopes for us, hopes that we would be discerning enough to know why they went unpublished, but to love him for swinging even when he missed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Derek Wolfgram

    There was an article in the Washington Post a couple weeks ago about the estates of prominent authors (in this case, Douglas Adams, A.A. Milne, and Bram Stoker) hiring folks to write "authorized" sequels. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/... God help us if Vonnegut's estate ever follows this path. That being said, how can the world not be made a better place by the publication of more Vonnegut? His incredible wit, intense humanism, and insight into the human character were unparalleled. Chan There was an article in the Washington Post a couple weeks ago about the estates of prominent authors (in this case, Douglas Adams, A.A. Milne, and Bram Stoker) hiring folks to write "authorized" sequels. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/... God help us if Vonnegut's estate ever follows this path. That being said, how can the world not be made a better place by the publication of more Vonnegut? His incredible wit, intense humanism, and insight into the human character were unparalleled. Chances are, as long as his unpublished ouevre keeps being mined for more, I'll keep buying them, most likely with mixed feelings about the works. Look at the Birdie is a great example: it provides some early, poignant examples of short stories demonstrating the development of Vonnegut's trademark style. On his way to becoming the greatest novelist of the 20th century, he began his career writing short stories for a number of pulp magazines, with his gift for brevity often in direct competition with the "pay by the word" approach of these publications. If the stories in this collection remind me of anything, it's the surprise twist at the denouement of O. Henry's short stories. From the winning attitude of Francine from the "Girl Pool" who brings new light into the life of a bureaucrat who thinks he's in a dead end position in "FUBAR" to the frightening but familiar portrait of small town politics in "Ed Luby's Key Club," these stories illuminate the vagaries of life in the way that only Vonnegut could. I'm glad there are still some opportunities left to experience his unique perspective on the world.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Sometimes you wish families wouldn't release writers' work posthumously, but in this case, it was a beautiful thing to do. Here's a collection of short stories from "Early Kurt." Nothing is told in first person, and the familiar voice of his well-known books is barely there. But if you know his work you'll spot a few things: the unmistakable "um" given as a response by a character to ominously dumb statements (at least three times in this collection). The surprising absence of profanity (Vonnegu Sometimes you wish families wouldn't release writers' work posthumously, but in this case, it was a beautiful thing to do. Here's a collection of short stories from "Early Kurt." Nothing is told in first person, and the familiar voice of his well-known books is barely there. But if you know his work you'll spot a few things: the unmistakable "um" given as a response by a character to ominously dumb statements (at least three times in this collection). The surprising absence of profanity (Vonnegut even hyphenates the word "bastard" to avoid offense). Most of all, the traces of the raw and honest sentimentality that later made him famous, once he finally turned to first person and placed so many autobiographical details into his novels. Perhaps most surprising is the optimism that saturates these stories. Something Vonnegut lost completely by the middle of his career, but returned to in his own way later on. Compared to work written in his prime, elements of these stories are amateurish. I was surprised to note how similar these early tales are to the work of Isaac Asimov, who later became one of Vonnegut's best friends. There's always a hard twist at the endings, which keeps you turning the page to the next one. The title story is aptly chosen, a mere three page shocker that is the perfect example of Vonnegut's black humor. At his best, Vonnegut always played god and plunged characters into terrible situations... Artwork is included between stories, and adds much to the "feel." If you like his books, you'll miss him more for the way "Look at the Birdie" allows you to complete the circle of his full, painful, and transparent life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Vonnegut has a very surreal way of writing about what might be otherwise-normal situations; there's always an element of "Where did THAT come from? Seriously?" in each of his stories, but it seems to make perfect sense, in the end. After reading a book of his, I feel disappointed picking up almost any other book for a while. Shirley Jackson's another author who has this effect on my reading habits. Regarding this book, specifically, it's absolutely perfect for waiting rooms - each story took me a Vonnegut has a very surreal way of writing about what might be otherwise-normal situations; there's always an element of "Where did THAT come from? Seriously?" in each of his stories, but it seems to make perfect sense, in the end. After reading a book of his, I feel disappointed picking up almost any other book for a while. Shirley Jackson's another author who has this effect on my reading habits. Regarding this book, specifically, it's absolutely perfect for waiting rooms - each story took me about 15 minutes, tops, to read (I read quickly, but they're not written in an over-arching prose or anything), and there are quite a few of them, so carrying this book in my bag for a couple of weeks took care of a lot of what would otherwise be absolute boredom. It also has the bonus of being good, truly, with unexpected surprises, some odd endings, karmic justice, and the sort of oddball language that we, in the 21st century, deem to be "retro" or "cute" - and that language is used effectively, in context, so even if you've never heard a term before, you don't have to look it up or spend the rest of the story confused. I love a clear, concise read, and while Vonnegut doesn't suit everyone's tastes, I could imagine myself recommending individual stories from this book to many people that I know. Now I just have to wait another week for my brain to stop having such high expectations so I can read something else.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Why these stories went unpublished is hard to answer. They’re polished, they’re relentlessly fun to read, and every last one of them comes to a neat and satisfying end. For transmittal of moral instruction, they are incredibly efficient delivery devices. The 14 stories in “Look at the Birdie,” none of them afraid to entertain, dabble in whodunnitry, science fiction and commanding fables of good versus evil. They are polished and fun to read; every last one of them comes to a neat and satisfying Why these stories went unpublished is hard to answer. They’re polished, they’re relentlessly fun to read, and every last one of them comes to a neat and satisfying end. For transmittal of moral instruction, they are incredibly efficient delivery devices. The 14 stories in “Look at the Birdie,” none of them afraid to entertain, dabble in whodunnitry, science fiction and commanding fables of good versus evil. They are polished and fun to read; every last one of them comes to a neat and satisfying end. For transmittal of moral instruction, they are efficient delivery devices. They are pure Vonnegut! It is impossible for anyone other that Vonnegut to have written them. Vonnegut's use of descriptive language alone speaks volumes. Take, for example, the opening sentence of the first story "Confido" "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." That beautiful piece sets the standard for fourteen stories of pure reading enjoyment, all of which contain large helpings of Vonnegut's trademark black wit. In addition, these stories are accompanied by an assortment of his distinctive amusing line drawings. Do yourself a favor, refresh your memory, smile and Look at the Birdie!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, so I approached “Look at the Birdie” with a little trepidation as I am not a fan of the genre of short story, and Vonnegut’s short stories are always hit or miss for me. And these 14 stories were unpublished in his lifetime. I assume for a reason? Most were written for magazine literary submissions. I am happy to report that “Look at the Birdie” was an enjoyable read for me, and I do feel that the collection merited publication. The first two stories “Confido” and “ I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, so I approached “Look at the Birdie” with a little trepidation as I am not a fan of the genre of short story, and Vonnegut’s short stories are always hit or miss for me. And these 14 stories were unpublished in his lifetime. I assume for a reason? Most were written for magazine literary submissions. I am happy to report that “Look at the Birdie” was an enjoyable read for me, and I do feel that the collection merited publication. The first two stories “Confido” and “Fubar” are excellent and vintage Vonnegut. They channel classic Vonnegut themes, and they start the text off well. Another story I greatly enjoyed was “The Honor of a Newsboy” which harkens back to another era and is just a lovely piece. In this story, Vonnegut creates very real people in just a few deftly written pages. The last two pieces in this text are contrasts to the extreme. “The King and Queen of the Universe” is a story of simple power and depth. The closing story, “The Good Explainer” is a dark and slightly bitter piece and ends this fine book on a jarring note. I was surprised the editors chose to place it last. Among the 14 stories that comprise this text there are some misses and a few that show a bit of an amateur approach. My least favorite was “Hall of Mirrors”, but overall “Look at the Birdie” is a fine addition to the Vonnegut canon.

  24. 4 out of 5

    trina

    god i miss this man. just knowing he's not in the world anymore makes me sad. this collection, like the rest of his work, is extremely good, while being, i thought, quite unlike the rest of his work in many subtle ways. the black humor is there, the cutting insight on civilization and human nature is sharp as ever, and the thread of compassion that is his trademark runs, of course, through every story. but these stories are simpler than those he's well known for, and tend more towards the optimi god i miss this man. just knowing he's not in the world anymore makes me sad. this collection, like the rest of his work, is extremely good, while being, i thought, quite unlike the rest of his work in many subtle ways. the black humor is there, the cutting insight on civilization and human nature is sharp as ever, and the thread of compassion that is his trademark runs, of course, through every story. but these stories are simpler than those he's well known for, and tend more towards the optimistic than vonnegut openly did later in his career (in any of his books i've ever read, anyway). they were written in his younger days, when he was starting to become the writer he was going to be, and these deceptively simple stories are the more interesting to read because of that. i'll read just about anything that might give me insight into kurt vonnegut, and if i can learn about him while contemplating human foibles via the stories of communistic ants and high school pseudo-geniuses and creepy, crazy murder counselors, well, all the better. fingers crossed they find another stash of unpublished stories, and soon.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    This was my introduction to Vonnegut, and I'd say it was a good one. I've read quite a bit of 20th century short fiction, so it's hard to surprise me since the genre is given to certain formulaic tropes, but this one managed to do so if for no other reason that the twist at the end of several stories went in a completely different direction than I expected. I suppose this is a hallmark of what people call Vonnegut's inimitable style. It's hard to really pick favorites here, as the quality of the This was my introduction to Vonnegut, and I'd say it was a good one. I've read quite a bit of 20th century short fiction, so it's hard to surprise me since the genre is given to certain formulaic tropes, but this one managed to do so if for no other reason that the twist at the end of several stories went in a completely different direction than I expected. I suppose this is a hallmark of what people call Vonnegut's inimitable style. It's hard to really pick favorites here, as the quality of the stories was really very consistent—nothing had that seemingly inevitable flavor of filler so common to anthologies—but some of the one's that I suspect will stick with me longer than others were the opener, "Confido;" "F U B A R," a word that should be used more often IMHO; the rather lengthy "Ed Luby's Key Club," which ends nowhere near where I expected; and the chillingly clever title story. Considerably less impressive were the now somewhat obvious Soviet tale "The Petrified Ants" and "The Good Explainer," for which I did know the ending by the third page, the only time that happened in this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Lucy

    The editor and most of the reviewers all agree that they don't understand why these short stories of Vonnegut went unpublished. Obviously the editor would think that, and obviously the publisher wouldn't include reviews that blasted the stories, but still, I think it's clear why these stories went unpublished. They're not all that great. Good enough to read if you like Vonnegut or if you have nothing else to read. You can see the buds of Vonnegut's future blossomed career. Hardly any of these st The editor and most of the reviewers all agree that they don't understand why these short stories of Vonnegut went unpublished. Obviously the editor would think that, and obviously the publisher wouldn't include reviews that blasted the stories, but still, I think it's clear why these stories went unpublished. They're not all that great. Good enough to read if you like Vonnegut or if you have nothing else to read. You can see the buds of Vonnegut's future blossomed career. Hardly any of these stories have a sci-fi element, but whatever. The beginning of Vonnegut's humor and his life view, as well as his quirkiness, are clear. It's kind of fun to see how writers progress. If you agree with that statement, then you might find this collection as more than a two-star book. I have nothing more to say because, well, these stories are goodish, but not great. Nothing to complain of, nothing to praise. I will say, though, that in general Vonnegut does not display his courage to write a shocking story. He may start a quirky story but the ending is abrupt and completely normal. Almost every story veers off towards normalcy and there's never anything to write home about.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    A posthumous collection of short stories by a master of the form, this book is at worst a collection of solid B-sides from your favorite band. I can't help but feel Kurt wouldn't have published these himself, striving for perfection as he did, but I'm plenty thankful to have them. If I had to call out weak pieces, they would be 'Shout it from the Housetops' and 'Hall of Mirrors'- that still leaves you with 12 stories ranging from good to incredible in this compact volume. Reading 'Ed Luby's Key Cl A posthumous collection of short stories by a master of the form, this book is at worst a collection of solid B-sides from your favorite band. I can't help but feel Kurt wouldn't have published these himself, striving for perfection as he did, but I'm plenty thankful to have them. If I had to call out weak pieces, they would be 'Shout it from the Housetops' and 'Hall of Mirrors'- that still leaves you with 12 stories ranging from good to incredible in this compact volume. Reading 'Ed Luby's Key Club,' you'll be ashen and sick by the time you get to the end. A few stories ('Hello, Red', 'The Nice Little People') focus on the efficacy of calm passivity against bitter emotion, and also the costs. The stories have a fair distribution of both uplifting and depressing endings, so it's always a guessing game as to where the one you're currently reading will land. I can't overstate this enough, as the impact of each and all would be tragically lessened if you knew 'everything is going to be ok' or 'everything is going to be shit'— you don't, and sometimes it's neither.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Derek James Baldwin

    The 3 stars, if I am honest, are padded out with sentiment. Am and always have been a massive fan of Kurt Vonnegut but seldom enjoy reading short stories. Some of his, in Welcome To The Monkeyhouse for instance, are fine...but I think there were probably sound reasons why these ones were "previously unpublished..." One clue might be the reproduction of a letter from Kurt to a friend written in the 1950s which prefaces the stories. The gist of what he says is "I write because it earns me and my a The 3 stars, if I am honest, are padded out with sentiment. Am and always have been a massive fan of Kurt Vonnegut but seldom enjoy reading short stories. Some of his, in Welcome To The Monkeyhouse for instance, are fine...but I think there were probably sound reasons why these ones were "previously unpublished..." One clue might be the reproduction of a letter from Kurt to a friend written in the 1950s which prefaces the stories. The gist of what he says is "I write because it earns me and my agent and publishers money". No quarrel with that but someone ought to have exercised some quality control over these and not published the preface as a fuck you to the reader. The one really good line was in a story where the mother of a naive wealthy young person realises that the one great thing that money _can_ buy you is eternal childhood (ie lack of worry about the world, grubby poor people, etc). For Vonnegut completists only - and make sure you borrow it don't pay good money for it!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    My first thought at buying this book was "there's a reason Vonnegut never published these stories." But I talked myself into buying the book. I should have stuck with that first thought. I didn't hate this collection of short stories. I didn't hate even a single story. But they certainly lacked the normal Vonnegut oomph. There really wasn't a memorable story in here. The original Vonnegut drawings included in the collection were just as interesting, if not more interesting, than the stories thems My first thought at buying this book was "there's a reason Vonnegut never published these stories." But I talked myself into buying the book. I should have stuck with that first thought. I didn't hate this collection of short stories. I didn't hate even a single story. But they certainly lacked the normal Vonnegut oomph. There really wasn't a memorable story in here. The original Vonnegut drawings included in the collection were just as interesting, if not more interesting, than the stories themselves. Maybe I'll have to re-read "Welcome to the Monkey House" to remind myself how wonderful Kurt Vonnegut's stories can be.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    It's a sad thing to write the word "posthumous" when dealing with the new Kurt Vonnegut book. One of my favorite and most influential writers, Vonnegut was a master satirist and an amazing wordsmith. "Look at the Birdie", a collection of unpublished short fiction from early in Vonnegut's writing career, reveals the evolutionary process of a great writer. While the majority of these stories tend to be somewhat clunky and simplistic, there is still within them the seeds of Vonnegut's sparseness of It's a sad thing to write the word "posthumous" when dealing with the new Kurt Vonnegut book. One of my favorite and most influential writers, Vonnegut was a master satirist and an amazing wordsmith. "Look at the Birdie", a collection of unpublished short fiction from early in Vonnegut's writing career, reveals the evolutionary process of a great writer. While the majority of these stories tend to be somewhat clunky and simplistic, there is still within them the seeds of Vonnegut's sparseness of language, dark humor, social justice, and joyful love of the Absurd that made him one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

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