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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  14,454 ratings  ·  479 reviews
Jailbird takes us into a fractured and comic, pure Vonnegut world of high crimes and misdemeanors in government—and in the heart. This wry tale follows bumbling bureaucrat Walter F. Starbuck from Harvard to the Nixon White House to the penitentiary as Watergate’s least known co-conspirator. But the humor turns dark when Vonnegut shines his spotlight on the cold hearts and ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published January 12th 1999 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1979)
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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutCat's Cradle by Kurt VonnegutBreakfast of Champions by Kurt VonnegutThe Sirens of Titan by Kurt VonnegutMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut's Best
16th out of 38 books — 513 voters
1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cult Classics
239th out of 680 books — 850 voters

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Community Reviews

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I could never choose a favorite Vonnegut book, but when he died recently it was Jailbird I picked up to reread and feel his humanism and his compassion for all of flawed mankind. To me the underlying theme of Vonnegut's work is the importance of fundamental kindness. Even when Vonnegut it as his most negative about a situation, his conviction that compassion and generosity would be enough to fix whatever problem he's dwelling on shines through. His disappointment that this approach is all too se ...more
Not one of the better known Vonnegut novels, and significantly different than most of his other collection.

Jailbird lacks the absurdist bent characterized by so much of his other satire, and is conspicuously serious throughout most of the work, though it still features Vonnegut’s fast style and light approach.

All the same, he tackles some heavy subjects and embraces the themes with a mature, though still wry humor.

I began reading this book just after finishing Anna Karenina and I am glad I did. It was essentially everything Anna Karenina was not (in a good way).

The prose was classic Vonnegut, light, fast paced and strangely hilarious. I look at Vonnegut as many look upon their grandfathers. There are the same corny jokes you've come to expect and despite their corniness you can't help but laugh and be pleased with them.

Jailbird was particularly interesting and at the same time confusing for me. The tale g
It strikes me, not for the first time whilst reading Vonnegut that writers can be divided into two camps. The ones who have to work to include that smart-arse-clever line/sentence/phrase they jotted down somewhere, sometime and really really need to get in. Who was it who said that the more you like something you've written down, the more likely it is that you should take it out? And the ones who, even if what they say hits you with a jolt - and Vonnegut's lines often do that - they nonetheless ...more
Ben Babcock
One of the central conceits of Jailbird is that the RAMJAC corporation seems to own everything, and it is owned by Mrs. Jack Graham, a reclusive woman whom few people have met in person and who gives orders by telephone, confirming them by mailing a letter to her subordinates signed by fingerprints from both hands. That’s weird, right?

Problem is, this is a Vonnegut novel, so it’s not nearly weird enough.

Walter F. Starbuck is a Harvard man, a minor public servant who does time in a white-collar p
I don't mind so much the Republicans who embrace greed and general douche-baggery.

But it's those Republicans who cloak themselves in smug, moral self-righteousness, the ones who invoke God and think somehow Jesus would be on board with their selfish hypocrisy, that really annoy me.

In the intro to Jailbird, Vonnegut refers to a letter he had recently received from a high-school reader who told Vonnegut he had read almost everything by him and wanted to share the single idea he found at the core o
This was my first foray into Kurt Vonnegut territory, and I expected to have stronger feelings one way or another about his work. Instead, I was mildly pleased when the book was finished and I could move on to something else. It is plain to see that there is a host of individuals out there who regard Vonnegut as an icon, and I will not presume to gainsay them. He simply did not strike a chord with me.

Perhaps if I had read a book or two of his in my younger days, or chosen a different title for m
First I have to say that Mr. Vonnegut is amazing, so I'm a bit biased. If you REALLY want to start reading all of Mr. Vonnegut's books (which you should want to do) please don't start with this book. But then again Jailbird is much more straightforward in its story line then some of his other books so it might be a bit more accessible. I like how Mr. Vonnegut's writing skips around and truly makes no sense until about half way through when it starts to slowly come together. Jailbird is not like ...more
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors, and he has yet to let me down. Other readers are correct in the pacing of this book - it moves along a bit slower than other Vonnegut novels, but this was probably intentional with the author constantly referencing what a sad, old, fragile man he had become. I can't think of a single time that I've witnessed a fragile old man rushing through his story.

There were several things that made me fall in love with this story, which actually not my standard f
I found this book in my bathroom and decided to read it. It was left there by a guest who was probably pooping when he was reading it. That's OK with me. About a third of the way through the book, Walter F. Starbuck, the hero (though he would probably prefer we not call him that), finds a paperback book in a bathroom stall at an airport and decides to read it. I about fell off my chair.

When I was a senior in high school, I was introduced to Vonnegut and proceeded to read everything the man had
Maybe this really deserves four stars, I just can't tell anymore. For me, Of Human Bondage set the bar so high it's now unreachable and most likely all the ratings I've given since have suffered accordingly.

What did I learn from this book?
Apparently that whole Sacco and Vanzetti thing was as important as that graphic novel I read about the wobblies said, it must have been because Vonnegut constantly references it throughout the book, according to the index at least a dozen times. Who puts an i
Charlie Weiss
I have officially given up on choosing a favorite Vonnegut. They're all amazing, which is why I'm reading every last one.
Though I was a bit thrown off with this one, firstly because I thought Kilgore Trout was real, not just a pseudonym of Dr Bob Fender. Secondly, the fact that most of the facts referenced in this book are true. Like Sacco and Vanzetti, and Watergate.

Here's my favorite part of this one:
And then I regaled myself with a story by my prison friend Dr. Robert Fender, which he had pu
Noran Miss Pumkin
Jan 06, 2014 Noran Miss Pumkin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kurt V. fans
Recommended to Noran by: John.
Shelves: popular-books
i know the the teenager the author mentions in the preface of the book or is it the intro. many i guess think he does not exist, but he does. the author even sent him a leather bound edition of this tome autographed. the book, will like most the this author's works--not my taste. some like this type of pizza, i do not.
Paul Coyne
Before reading this book all I knew about Vonnegut was that his name is fun to say. V-O-N-N-E-G-U-T!
The story parallels with real life events. Particularly, the Watergate Scandal. A man responsible for some of it is let out of his only known home jail, and he begins recalling events past. His life is a type of cometic joke, for it is not good nor bad. It is kinda average. He received opportunities, but he was always trifled, but really who isn't. Will, Walter F. Starbuck find a gold mine, not l
W powieściach Vonneguta zauważalna jest jedna dość charakterystyczna cecha. Większość jego książek posiada senną atmosferę, z której przebija się pewna postawa obojętności do świata. Obojętności, która jest wyczuwalna wśród cech jego bohaterów lub nie wprost wyłania się ona z samej struktury stworzonego przez niego świata. Podobnie jest w tym przypadku: główny bohater Walter Starbuck jest wręcz klasycznym tego przykładem. Sama powieść przenosi nas do czasów rządów Nixona oraz słynnej w stanach a ...more
Jeff Lacy
About the haphazardness of power, economic and political, and the irony and folly of Walter F. Starbuck's life affected by it.

I did not enjoy this story or it's characters, but it's Vonnegut. I recommend anything he writes.

Revise: Aug 30, 2014: I have been thinking about this book since I finished it and wrote my review above. I have come to the conclusion that this book, perhaps more than most of Vonnegut's other novels works on a myriad of themes: friendship, success, failure, injustice, wrong
Prefaced with the well-known premise “against stupidity even the gods contend in vain” (xii), and notes thereafter that “labor history was pornography of a sort” in the early 20th century (xviii). Narrative arises out of a fictional moment of labor history, the fabricated “Cuyahoga Massacre” in Cleveland, 1894 (xxi). Narrator is raised by one of the industrialist villains who authored the massacre, and becomes a big commie, and later ends up in prison several times for stupid things, such as bei ...more
I always enter a Vonnegut book with a mix of hope and trepidation. He has written two novels I think are hilarious, Cat's Cradle and Slapstick, and some brilliant short stories, but the other books I've read have ranged from mildly interesting Slaughterhouse-Five to wretched (God Bless You Mr. Rosewater), and many I've started and then given up on.

Jailbird falls somewhere between Slaughterhouse-Five and GBYMR in my esteem. It's a short but shambling book with some interesting moments, but there'
Scott Stevenson
The author does not want you to know this but Goodreads has just been purchased by the RAMJAC Corporation.
Nicholas Sangiacomo
Big meh on this one. Jailbird is a very traditional narrative (1st person) compared to other Vonnegut books. It follows a Harvard man as he is released from prison following the Watergate scandal.

I can't tell why Vonnegut wrote this one. He wrote a longer, more traditional novel here, and yet there seems to be very little actual story after the first third of the novel or so. The rest is just a bunch of tangentially related encounters that totally failed to grip me.

Part of the problem, I think,
Tazar Oo
ကဳပက စိတကို ျဖစိုငသေလာက ဗလာကငးေနေအာင ထားတယ။ ခငဗားလညး သိပါတယ၊ အတိတက သိပစိတပကစရာေကာငးၿပီး အနာဂတကေတာ သိပေၾကာကစရာ ေကာငးတယ။ ွစေပါငးမားစြာအတြငး ကဳပရနသူေတြအမားႀကီး ရခဲတယ။ တစေနရာရာမွာ စားပြဲထိုးအလုပေတာင ရပါမလား ကဳပမွာ မေသခာဘူး။ ကဳပကေတာ တျဖညးျဖညး စုတခာညစပတလာံုပဲ။ ဟုတတယေလ၊ ဘယေနရာကမွ ငေငြမရိုငတာ။ ကဳပကေတာ ကဴးေကာရပကြကမွာ ဂိတဆံုးမွာ။ အရကမႀကိဳကေတာငမွ အေအးဒဏကိုကာကြယဖို ိုငကေလး ေသာကၿပီးေတာေပါ။

ကဳပေတြးၾကညတာ၊ အဆိုးဆံုးကေတာ လူျပတတဲလမးၾကားကေလး တစခုမွာ ကဳပ အိပေပာသြားလိမမယ။ ဆိုပါစို၊ စုတပဲပဲ လူအိုႀကီးေတြကို ၾကညမရတဲ ဆို
I didn't know what to expect when I picked this out of the bargain bin at my college book store, although it is not one of Vonnegut's more famous works I was pleasantly suprised. The politics and simple, yet randomly insightful, style of writing aside, what I really loved about this book was the side stories written under the psedonym "Kilgore Trout" which was one of his prison mates in the white collar prison. Two specifically caught my attention as brilliant, especially as they were written in ...more
Erik Dabel
Some people say Vonnegut's works are not as relevant today as they were when they were new. I completely disagree, but that's not the point here.

This book is NOT one of those. Jailbird is as relevant today, if not more so, then ever before.

Jailbird is the memoirs of Walter F. Starbuck, a former card carrying member of the Communist Party and criminal convicted of crimes involving Watergate.

The book itself deals with many of the problems with Capitalism in a way only the great Kurt Vonnegut can
I think I read this book. I remember really liking the cover. It's a good coverr. The picture of the bird is painted in something I think is water colors, and I only say that because the color gets more opaque around the edges. Sort of like the rings coffee will leave on your counter or a piece of paper. For a while I thought that the bird had been painted on by someone in my house. There are lots of artists in my house. Everybody in my family fancies themselves an artist on some level. My dad w ...more
Trevor Denton
Jailbird is all over the place in that great Vonnegut way. It's about an elderly man who is released from minimum security prison, where he was serving a sentence for white collar crimes he committed while inadvertently involving himself in the Watergate scandal.

The book is a great collection of character interactions, as the protagonist reconnects with several people from his past life, as well as people in the new, dispassionate world in which he finds himself.

Through the actions and thoughts
This isn't as strong as Vonnegut's best work, but it's still a good, quick read for fans of his. It's almost as if giving the book more of a traditional, forward-moving plot thrust than, say, 'Breakfast Of Champions' or 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' diminished the typical Vonnegut flourishes readers expect. That's not to say that these flourishes (blunt renderings of basic truths; repeated motifs, as in "So it goes" from 'Slaughterhouse-Five;' Kilgore Trout; etc.) entirely absent, because they are, but ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Let's face it: this is a minor novel by Vonnegut.
Which means - mind you - that 'Jailbird' is still a good book.

There is a certain melancholic Shawshank Redemption-like feeling here and I've found the pages about Sacco & Vanzetti to be particularly touching and interesting. The weather sympathises.

A sentimental novel imbibed of heavyweight topics such as the Watergate, McCarthysm, civil rights, fight against the corporations and much more.

Any other novelist would have either made a mess out
Jailbird is a personal favorite of mine, which means that it ranks in the top 5 of Vonnegut's novels. Here we find Vonnegut at his most grounded and his most overtly political. These are, of course, relative terms for a writer as inventive and socially conscious as Kurt Vonnegut. He explores the absurdities of the American education system, socialism, corporate monopolies, class identification, and man's fundamental lack of compassion in the face of money or power.

In Jailbird, as in all of his
read this one way back when, read it again 2010...i've enjoyed everything vonnegut has written...that i've read...still have a few more to read, playing catch up. there's a little ditty in this one that i've remembered all these years, sally in the garden sifting cinders lifted up her leg and farted like a man the bursting of her bloomers broke sixteen winders the cheeks of her arse went... and here the character claps his hands together three times.

the only way that would have been clearer woul
MJ Nicholls
Jailbird is a quintessentially Vonnegutian tale of rich-man guilt and the futility of capitalist America.

The story is most effective when dealing with Walter's love interests. Vonnegut captures the intensity and importance of relationships like no other writer, by stretching them throughout life, showing how love endures more than money or career success. He does this, of course, with dollops of sentimental irony.

I think "sentimental ironist" isn't a bad summation of Vonnegut's style, though his
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2015 Reading Chal...: Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut 1 8 May 15, 2015 04:24PM  
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Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali
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