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Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short…

Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction (edition 2009)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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8071319,532 (3.82)12
A volume of fourteen early and previously unpublished short works offers insight into the social satirist's developing literary style and includes pieces that explore such themes as innocence, ironic twists of fate, and morality.
Title:Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:Delacorte Press (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

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Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction by Kurt Vonnegut

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This was another good collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. He managed to surprise me with many of them, not only holding my attention and entertaining me, but providing meaning and closure in nearly all of his tales. If you're a Vonnegut fan, you really should read this collection.

4.25 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Feb 4, 2020 |
I really enjoyed this collection from earlier in his career. Most of these lack the edge of some of his later works, but I enjoyed the way the stories were crafted and the simple humanity of them. I particularly enjoyed A Song for Selma and King and Queen of the Universe and I think it was that humanity that appealed to me. ( )
  AliceAnna | Sep 30, 2018 |
amazing. i've never been a huge fan of short fiction in general, but loved this collection. vonnegut never fails to leave me wanting to hunt down every last scrap of his writing. ( )
  mkclane | Jul 31, 2015 |
The second 'we-swear-it's-the-last' collection of short stories from one of the greatest american writer of the XX c. Still unique, still enchanting.... Miss you Kurt! ( )
  TheCrow2 | Aug 13, 2013 |
I was a little disappointed with this book as it lacks all the characteristics that readers come to expect of a Vonnegut work. Furthermore, the foreword of any work by Vonnegut was just as entertaining as the stories themselves, but this one came up short. The forewords made sense of the whole thing. I remember reading the foreword of Breakfast of Champions and reading about how soldiers fighting during World War I head the silence on the 11 day of the 11 month with the truce and swore that it was the voice of God. This is just a collection of short stories from a novice writer trying to find his voice.

Armageddon in Retrospect was the last book Vonnegut was working on before his death. In that book, I could tell that he wanted to rework certain stories within it. There are in fact two stories in that work that are identical with exception to the ending. It was a magnificent final work, Birdie is probably the worst. It probably shouldn't have been put out at all with the exception pleasing hard core Vonnegut fans. With the exception of Candido, all of the stories are very bland and predictable. They lack the characteristics of the Vonnegut everyone knows. ( )
  shadowofthewind | Aug 28, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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. 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.
This is a collection of fiction plus one letter of “sententious crap” unpublished in Vonnegut’s lifetime. The stories appear to have been written for the most part in the 1950s; one even mentions King Farouk. Sparingly interspersed through the book are Vonnegut’s own illustrations in his naïve style. They too appear of 1950s vintage though their copyright dates are much later.

Throughout, Vonnegut’s tendency to name his characters strikingly is to the fore; Ernest Groper, K Hollomon Weems, Felix Karadubian. Vonnegut’s characteristic dry style is also evident. He seems to have found his voice early. Though he made his name writing SF, before later disclaiming it, most of the tales here are devoid of speculative content.

The two stories that might vaguely be called SF are “Confido” and “The Petrified Ants.” In the first an ear piece designed to make people happy is “a combination of confidant and a household pet” but whispers only the worst of others. I trust Vonnegut was aware of the Latin pun of his title. The second is set in the Erzgebirge mountains in Soviet era Czechoslovakia where some newly uncovered fossils reveal ants once behaved individualistically. The revelation of their change to collectivity is hurried, though, and stretches credibility. The story is fun but too heavy-handed in its allegorisation of Soviet society.

As to the rest of the fiction, “FUBAR” is a gentle but utterly conventional story in which a crabbed bureaucrat begins to awaken to the possibility of a different kind of life when a newly trained young secretary is assigned to him. The 1950s ambience here is revealed by the F in FUBAR standing for “fouled” rather than anything more demotic.

“Shout About it from the Housetops” examines the deleterious consequences of publishing a novel whose characters are based on barely disguised neighbours, friends and the author’s spouse.

The two-part “Ed Luby’s Key Club” deals with Harve Elliot, who, along with his wife, Claire, witnesses a murder by the local gang boss. Both are then accused of it themselves. In the second part Harve alone escapes from custody and attempts to vindicate himself. The story’s conclusion, while worthy, is perhaps a little too complacent.

“A Song for Selma” tells how people’s aspirations can be transformed, for good or ill, by their expectations of themselves as mediated through those of others.

In “Hall of Mirrors” a hypnotist uses his powers to evade the police when they come to investigate the disappearances of his wealthy women clients.

“Hello, Red” is the story of a bitter wandering sailor’s return to his home town to try to claim guardianship of the distinctively flame haired daughter he fathered before his first trip abroad, and of her reaction to him.

“Little Drops of Water” concerns the subtle strategy employed by one former conquest to gain her revenge after being dumped by a confirmed ladies’ man of fixed habits.

In “Look at the Birdie” an encounter in a bar with a disgraced former psychiatrist who insists his wife photographs the narrator leads to a demand that can’t be refused.

“King and Queen of the Universe” has a very well to do teenaged couple in the Depression era on their way home from a party come face to face with the harsher realities of less privileged lives.

“The Good Explainer” is the doctor to whom a man and wife travel from Cincinnati to Chicago in order to have the reasons for their childlessness laid bare.

While all the stories in the book are never less than readable, they do not represent Vonnegut at his best. Among other faults they are too often prefaced by a brief paragraph or two of scene setting which are told to, rather than unfolded for, us and there is a tendency to repetition of such things as job titles.

Recommended to Vonnegut completists but not as an introduction to his work.
added by jackdeighton | editInterzone 231, Jack Deighton

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kurt Vonnegutprimary authorall editionscalculated
塔, 円城Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowohlt, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
望, 大森Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dear Miller:
Thought, rather fuzzily, about something I want to add to my recent letter to you.
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Disambiguation notice
A collection containing the following stories and essays:
  • Foreword (by Sidney Offit)
  • Letter from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., to Miller Harris, 1951
  • Confido
  • 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
Do not combine with works which don't contain these stories. Also don't combine with the short story Look at the Birdie.
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A volume of fourteen early and previously unpublished short works offers insight into the social satirist's developing literary style and includes pieces that explore such themes as innocence, ironic twists of fate, and morality.

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