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.
Last year Vonnegut distressed his fans by saying that Timequake was his final book. The unexpected appearance of Bagombo Snuff Box this year is therefore a welcome surprise. However, it should be understood that this book contains no new fiction; it's a collection of stories that haven't seen the light of day since Vonnegut published them in early 1950s magazines. Their not being reprinted sooner says something about them--most simply aren't very good. When they start to develop interesting ideas, they tend to end abruptly and pointlessly. As a group, they're little more than curious relics revealing little of what makes Vonnegut's later work special. If anyone other than Vonnegut had written them, this book wouldn't draw flies. However, he did write them, and that means the book will draw library patrons aplenty. Alexander Marshall's reading is service able, but the real treat in this abridged audio edition is the author himself; he narrates his own lengthy, and often revealing, introduction and afterword. His reading alone is worth the price of admission, and it makes this an almost obligatory purchase for libraries catering to his readers.--R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In an amiable and lengthy introduction read by the author, Vonnegut sounds downright aged, undeniably wise and a bit wistful, conjuring up the time of his early writing career when he wrote these previously uncollected short stories for magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Argosy. Sparks of his youthful, mischievous humor soon break through, as he describes his time working first as a PR man for General Electric, then as a journeyman magazine writer. "Thanasphere," a SF outing about an astronaut who hears the voices of dead spirits in space, mocks Cold War-era scientists who were "amazed at nothing." Likewise, "To Be or Not to Be," with its future-view of enforced population control, shows Utopian ideals gone awry. Read in sensitive tones by Marshall (an actor who has narrated parts for animated series on TV), the stories' sly moods seem to build on their own. Based on the 1999 Putnam hardcover. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Praise for Bagombo Snuff Box
"These tales are worth reading; with the other early stories in Welcome to the Monkey House, they provide fans with the complete test-tube Vonnegut."--Entertainment Weekly "The stories...are snappy and often humorous, gentle even when sad. Some have trick endings--the early Vonnegut, he tells us, was an admirer of O. Henry. Most have morals. And the characters know what the morals are; the willingness of even the pretentious and deluded among them to learn from their comeuppances reflects a kind of optimism we dont' expect from the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle."--Los Angeles Times "An on-target, satisfying collection of quirky plot lines and rapidly developed characters who usually manage to rise above their ordinary stations and predicaments."--Chicago Tribune