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While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction

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While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction Cover

ISBN13: 9780385343732
ISBN10: 0385343736
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

Alas, Kurt Vonnegut is still dead. Luckily for grieving readers, the cascade of Vonnegut's work continues to flow. This book features 16 previously unpublished stories from the early years of his career, each of which will delight his longtime fans.
Recommended by Rico, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Smart, whimsical, and often scathing, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut influenced a generation of American writers — including Dave Eggers, author of this volume's Foreword. In these previously unpublished gems, Vonnegut's originality infuses a unique landscape of factories, trailers, and bars — and characters who pit their dreams and fears against a cruel and sometimes comically indifferent world.

Here are stories of men and machines, art and artifice, and how ideals of fortune, fame, and love take curious twists in ordinary lives. An ambitious builder of roads, commanding an army of bulldozers, graders, and asphalt spreaders, fritters away his free time with miniature trains — until the women in his life crash his fantasy land. Trapped in a stenography pool, a young dreamer receives a call from a robber on the run, who presents her with a strange proposition. A crusty newspaperman is forced onto a committee to judge Christmas displays — a job that leads him to a suspiciously ostentatious ex-con and then a miracle. A hog farmer's widow receives cryptic, unsolicited letters from a man in Schenectady about the indefinable sweet aches of the spirit. But what will she find when she goes to meet him in the flesh?

These beautifully rendered works are a testament to Vonnegut's unique blend of observation and imagination. Like a present left behind by a departed loved one, While Mortals Sleep bestows upon us a shimmering Kurt Vonnegut gift: a poignant reflection of our world as it is and as it could be.

Review:

"The 16 previously unpublished short stories of this collection, taken from the beginning of Vonnegut's career, show a young author already grappling with themes and ideas that would define his work for decades to come. 'Girl Pool' features typist Amy Lou Little, employee of the Kafkaesque Montezuma Forge and Foundry Company, who is tasked with transcribing a plea for help she receives on her Dictaphone from an escaped, dying murderer hiding somewhere in the works of the company's cavernous factory. The tale reveals Vonnegut investigating one of his recurring themes: the isolation brought by technology and the necessity for basic humanity in the workplace. The title story melds a sentimental meditation on the true meaning of Christmas with elements of the mystery genre as a hard-nosed reporter stalks the story of stolen nativity scene characters. While these early stories show an author still testing the boundaries of his craft and obsessions, Vonnegut's acute moral sense and knack for compelling prose are very much on display. In the foreword, Dave Eggers calls Vonnegut 'a hippie Mark Twain,' which perfectly captures an essential truth about this esteemed author. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"Tightly and crisply written....[T]hese stories, while clearly seminal, constitute a worthwhile contribution to the author's oeuvre." Booklist

Review:

"Though not adding significantly to Vonnegut's legacy, this is an appealing glimpse of a young writer learning his craft. It deserves an audience among general readers as well as Vonnegut completists." Library Journal

Review:

"While Mortals Sleep is ultimately an artifact to celebrate and remind us that, with literature at least, we can do ourselves a favor by not staying current." Kansas City Star

Review:

"The stories set themselves up with neat swiftness, proceed at a clip, and shut down with equal speed. They're very skillfully done....These taut, concise stories show us the roots of a great Rube Goldberg literary career." The Los Angeles Times

Synopsis:

Like a present left behind by a departed loved one, While Mortals Sleep bestows upon us a shimmering Kurt Vonnegut gift: a poignant reflection of our world as it is and as it could be.

Synopsis:

Featuring more than a dozen pieces of artwork done by Vonnegut himself, this collection contains 16 never-before-published pieces of short fiction--long-buried, brilliant short stories dating from early in the author's career.

Synopsis:

Foreword by Dave Eggers

Smart, whimsical, and often scathing, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut influenced a generation of American writers—including Dave Eggers, author of this volume’s Foreword. In these previously unpublished gems, Vonnegut’s originality infuses a unique landscape of factories, trailers, and bars—and characters who pit their dreams and fears against a cruel and sometimes comically indifferent world.

Here are stories of men and machines, art and artifice, and how ideals of fortune, fame, and love take curious twists in ordinary lives. An ambitious builder of roads, commanding an army of bulldozers, graders, and asphalt spreaders, fritters away his free time with miniature trains—until the women in his life crash his fantasy land. Trapped in a stenography pool, a young dreamer receives a call from a robber on the run, who presents her with a strange proposition. A crusty newspaperman is forced onto a committee to judge Christmas displays—a job that leads him to a suspiciously ostentatious ex-con and then a miracle. A hog farmer’s widow receives cryptic, unsolicited letters from a man in Schenectady about “the indefinable sweet aches of the spirit.” But what will she find when she goes to meet him in the flesh?

These beautifully rendered works are a testament to Vonnegut’s unique blend of observation and imagination. Like a present left behind by a departed loved one, While Mortals Sleep bestows upon us a shimmering Kurt Vonnegut gift: a poignant reflection of our world as it is and as it could be.

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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Heather L, September 30, 2011 (view all comments by Heather L)
In the Foreword, Dave Eggers writes:

"I’ve been thinking a lot about what we lost when we lost Kurt Vonnegut, and the main thing that keeps coming to mind is that we lost a moral voice. We lost a very reasonable and credible--though not to say staid or toothless--voice who helped us know how to live."

Vonnegut has been one of my favorite authors since reading Welcome to the Monkey House in high school and I agree with Eggers. In everything Vonnegut wrote--short stories, essays, novels--there is a lesson to be learned about the human condition. Whether it’s about love, money, fame, war or any of the other various subjects he wrote about, Vonnegut always made his very reasonable and moral voice heard.

The short stories in While Mortals Sleep were previously unpublished and were written when Vonnegut’s career as a writer was just getting started. As I learned from Eggers’ Foreword, Vonnegut was selling his short fiction to magazines like Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post and the structure of these stories reflects what those magazines were looking for at the time: a solid plot, simple prose and conflict, and an unexpected twist at the end. And although these stories are simpler than others he wrote later on, they are certainly no less interesting. Vonnegut was a wonderful writer even at the beginning of his career. The characters are well-written; the plots are simple, but solid and intriguing; the scenery is described well and easily pictured; and the plot twists are great. What makes these stories so good was Vonnegut’s complete grasp of life and human nature. The characters are the kinds of people we are apt to encounter in our everyday lives. Their situations are not always common, but Vonnegut’s writing makes it seem like this kind of stuff happens every day. And Vonnegut tries to teach us some very good lessons with these stories. For example: be yourself; don’t judge people by what’s on the outside; life is always unpredictable; and sometimes when you play a joke on someone, the joke ends up being on you.

There are sixteen stories in While Mortals Sleep and while I liked them all, I definitely had my favorites. “The Man Without No Kiddleys” was particularly funny to me because I have known men with these same personalities and could easily picture them as the characters in the story, making a bet about how many kidneys they still have between the two of them. And “kiddleys”? Too funny. In “Tango,” I loved that dancing the tango was what brought Robert Brewer back to life (figuratively speaking) in a boring, stuffy, isolated town. If you’re not familiar with Vonnegut’s imagination and writing style, here’s a taste in which he describes what “dancing” means in the town of Pisquontuit:

"Dancing at Pisquontuit was an almost imperceptible shifting of weight from one foot to the other, with the feet remaining in place, from three to six inches apart. This seemly shifting of weight was all things to all music, samba, waltz, gavotte, fox-trot, bunny hug, or hokeypokey. No matter what new dance craze came along, Pisquontuit overpowered it easily. The ballroom could have been filled with clear gelatin to shoulder height without hampering the dancers. It could have been filled to a point just below the dancers’ nostrils, for that matter, for agreement on every subject was so complete that discussion had been reduced to a verbal shorthand resembling asthma."

I absolutely love his sense of humor. And finally, what the main character’s mother ended up doing in “With His Hand on the Throttle” was just hilarious and awesome. I have never been a huge fan of short fiction only because I would rather read a long, meaty book, but I love Vonnegut’s short fiction. Time and time again he proves that he is in no way limited by the short story structure, fitting a lot of good substance into so few words.

I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for great fiction and great writing. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of short fiction, like me, I still think you’ll enjoy this book. If you have never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut before, you’re missing out, in my opinion. Pick up this book--or any of his others--and give him a read. You won’t be disappointed. To those of you who are already fans of Vonnegut, I think you’ll agree that it’s so nice to see his previously unpublished writing being published now for us to enjoy. The stories in While Mortals Sleep are typical, wonderful Vonnegut (read: unique and refreshing) and I really would recommend it to any and all fiction readers.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No

Product Details

ISBN:
9780385343732
Subtitle:
Unpublished Short Fiction
Author:
Vonnegut, Kurt
Publisher:
Delacorte Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Stories (single author)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20110125
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
12 BandW DRAWINGS THRU/OUT
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.54 x 5.7 x 1 in .92 lb

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Sale Books
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Adventure

While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction Used Hardcover
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$10.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Delacorte Press - English 9780385343732 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Alas, Kurt Vonnegut is still dead. Luckily for grieving readers, the cascade of Vonnegut's work continues to flow. This book features 16 previously unpublished stories from the early years of his career, each of which will delight his longtime fans.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The 16 previously unpublished short stories of this collection, taken from the beginning of Vonnegut's career, show a young author already grappling with themes and ideas that would define his work for decades to come. 'Girl Pool' features typist Amy Lou Little, employee of the Kafkaesque Montezuma Forge and Foundry Company, who is tasked with transcribing a plea for help she receives on her Dictaphone from an escaped, dying murderer hiding somewhere in the works of the company's cavernous factory. The tale reveals Vonnegut investigating one of his recurring themes: the isolation brought by technology and the necessity for basic humanity in the workplace. The title story melds a sentimental meditation on the true meaning of Christmas with elements of the mystery genre as a hard-nosed reporter stalks the story of stolen nativity scene characters. While these early stories show an author still testing the boundaries of his craft and obsessions, Vonnegut's acute moral sense and knack for compelling prose are very much on display. In the foreword, Dave Eggers calls Vonnegut 'a hippie Mark Twain,' which perfectly captures an essential truth about this esteemed author. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , "Tightly and crisply written....[T]hese stories, while clearly seminal, constitute a worthwhile contribution to the author's oeuvre."
"Review" by , "Though not adding significantly to Vonnegut's legacy, this is an appealing glimpse of a young writer learning his craft. It deserves an audience among general readers as well as Vonnegut completists."
"Review" by , "While Mortals Sleep is ultimately an artifact to celebrate and remind us that, with literature at least, we can do ourselves a favor by not staying current."
"Review" by , "The stories set themselves up with neat swiftness, proceed at a clip, and shut down with equal speed. They're very skillfully done....These taut, concise stories show us the roots of a great Rube Goldberg literary career."
"Synopsis" by , Like a present left behind by a departed loved one, While Mortals Sleep bestows upon us a shimmering Kurt Vonnegut gift: a poignant reflection of our world as it is and as it could be.
"Synopsis" by , Featuring more than a dozen pieces of artwork done by Vonnegut himself, this collection contains 16 never-before-published pieces of short fiction--long-buried, brilliant short stories dating from early in the author's career.
"Synopsis" by , Foreword by Dave Eggers

Smart, whimsical, and often scathing, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut influenced a generation of American writers—including Dave Eggers, author of this volume’s Foreword. In these previously unpublished gems, Vonnegut’s originality infuses a unique landscape of factories, trailers, and bars—and characters who pit their dreams and fears against a cruel and sometimes comically indifferent world.

Here are stories of men and machines, art and artifice, and how ideals of fortune, fame, and love take curious twists in ordinary lives. An ambitious builder of roads, commanding an army of bulldozers, graders, and asphalt spreaders, fritters away his free time with miniature trains—until the women in his life crash his fantasy land. Trapped in a stenography pool, a young dreamer receives a call from a robber on the run, who presents her with a strange proposition. A crusty newspaperman is forced onto a committee to judge Christmas displays—a job that leads him to a suspiciously ostentatious ex-con and then a miracle. A hog farmer’s widow receives cryptic, unsolicited letters from a man in Schenectady about “the indefinable sweet aches of the spirit.” But what will she find when she goes to meet him in the flesh?

These beautifully rendered works are a testament to Vonnegut’s unique blend of observation and imagination. Like a present left behind by a departed loved one, While Mortals Sleep bestows upon us a shimmering Kurt Vonnegut gift: a poignant reflection of our world as it is and as it could be.

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