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Look at the Birdie: Short Fiction

Look at the Birdie: Short Fiction

Current price: $17.00
Publication Date: September 7th, 2010
Dial Press Trade Paperback
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“Relentlessly fun to read.”—Dave Eggers • A collection of fourteen previously unpublished short stories from one of the most original writers in all of American fiction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.

Includes these never-before-published stories:

“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”

“[Look at the Birdie] brings us the late writer’s young voice as he skewers—sometimes gently, always lethally—post World War II America.”—The Boston Globe

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut’s humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as “a true artist” (The New York Times) with 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.

Sidney Offit has written two novels, two memoirs, and ten books for young readers. He was a senior editor of Intellectual Digest and a book editor of Politics Today, and for three decades he has served on the boards of the Authors Guild and PEN American Center. Currently, Mr. Offit is the curator emeritus of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. He lives in New York City with his wife, Avodah.

Praise for Look at the Birdie: Short Fiction

“The fourteen stories in Look at the Birdie, none of the afraid to entertain, dabble in whodunnitry, science fiction and commanding fables of good versus girls. 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.”—Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review
“[Look at the Birdie] brings us the late writer’s young voice as he skewers—sometimes gently, always lethally—post World War II America. . . . These stories recall not only a vanished time but also an almost extinct writing style: direct, funny, and free of slickness.”The Boston Globe
“Vonnegut’s wry and whimsical spirit lives on”The Daytona Beach News-Journal
“In a perfect world, this would be the sort of thing people would line up for at midnight.”New York
“Why these entertaining little tales were never published before is a mystery. Perhaps some magazine editor was going through a mental breakdown when the stories showed up in the mail. Or perhaps Vonnegut stuffed them into a sock drawer and forgot them. Whatever the case, they are without exception fun to read. . . . A throwback to the days when American readers expected magazines to publish engaging stories.”The Roanoke Times
“Occasionally from the nation’s cultural attic come rare finds, like this wondrous new collection of Kurt Vonnegut short stories. . . . Reading Look at the Birdie is a bit like watching TV’s Mad Men, with the added knowledge that the stories are of their time, not re-creations. The mastery evident in these early stories provides a precious glimpse of a writer finding his wings in the years before he soared.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Vanity and mendacity had better watch out, because their dearest enemy remains among us, still cheerfully kicking their butts. So it goes.”The Washington Times
“An instructive view of Vonnegut’s talent in the making.”Publishers Weekly
“When reading these stories, even with their blemishes, the biggest thrill is the knowledge that this young author would later produce some of the most innovative and memorable books of the twentieth century.”San Francisco Chronicle