Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Today: Look At the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut

When Look at the Birdie (Delacorte) crossed my desk, my breath caught in my throat, my heart skipped a beat, my hand reached out. I’m betting that, no matter what the popular consensus gets to be, that will be the book buying public’s reaction. New fiction by Kurt Vonnegut? Where do I sign?

Vonnegut, who died early in 2007 at the age of 84, left behind an astonishing body of work, including some of the English language’s most important novels. Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions and 17 others.

Look at the Birdie is subtitled “Unpublished Stories.” Although this is clearly an error (they’re published now, aren’t they?) it’s possible the author never intended them to be. In a foreword to the book, Vonnegut’s friend and confidant, the author and editor Sidney Offit, writes:
Unpublished is not a word we identity with a Kurt Vonnegut short story. It may well be that these stories didn’t appear in print because for one reason or another they didn’t satisfy Kurt. He rewrote and rewrote, as his son, Mark, as well as agents and editors testify. Although Kurt’s style may seem casual and spontaneous, he was a master craftsman, demanding of himself perfection of the story, the sentence, the word.
The stories might not have satisfied Vonnegut, but fans won’t be disappointed. This is vintage Vonnegut, 14 early stories that reflect the author -- and the world -- as they were.


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