Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  11,775 ratings  ·  377 reviews
Jailbird takes us into a fractured& comic world of high crimes &misdemeanors in government & the heart.This wry tale follows bumbling bureaucrat Walter F.Starbuck from Harvard to Nixon White House topenitentiary as Watergate's least knownco-conspirator. But the humor turns dark when Vonnegutshines his spotlight on the cold hearts &calculated greed of the mi...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published January 1st 1979 by Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
Tazar Oo
က်ဳပ္က စိတ္ကို ျဖစ္ႏိုင္သေလာက္ ဗလာက်င္းေနေအာင္ ထားတယ္။ ခင္ဗ်ားလည္း သိပါတယ္၊ အတိတ္က သိပ္စိတ္ပ်က္စရာေကာင္းၿပီး အနာဂတ္ကေတာ့ သိပ္ေၾကာက္စရာ ေကာင္းတယ္။ ႏွစ္ေပါင္းမ်ားစြာအတြင္း က်ဳပ္ရန္သူေတြအမ်ားႀကီး ရခဲ့တယ္။ တစ္ေနရာရာမွာ စားပြဲထိုးအလုပ္ေတာင္ ရပါ့မလား က်ဳပ္မွာ မေသခ်ာဘူး။ က်ဳပ္ကေတာ့ တျဖည္းျဖည္း စုတ္ခ်ာညစ္ပတ္လာ႐ံုပဲ။ ဟုတ္တယ္ေလ၊ ဘယ္ေနရာကမွ ၀င္ေငြမရႏိုင္တာ။ က်ဳပ္ကေတာ့ က်ဴးေက်ာ္ရပ္ကြက္မွာ ဂိတ္ဆံုးမွာ။ အရက္မႀကိဳက္ေတာင္မွ အေအးဒဏ္ကိုကာကြယ္ဖို႔ ၀ိုင္ကေလး ေသာက္ၿပီးေတာ့ေပါ့။

က်ဳပ္ေတြးၾကည့္တာ၊ အဆိုးဆံုးကေတာ့ လူျပတ္...more
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
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
Meh. The first half had me going, but then it kind-of dropped off. It could be that the book was over my head, but is seems more likely that it simply was full of random plot points and tangents. There were a couple of beautiful chapters, like about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, and about spirit beings on the planet Vicuna (classic Vonnegut outerspace parable stuff). But as a novel, it did not all connect, and I would have been just as happy, or even happier, reading those couple chapters in a c...more
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,...more
Perry Whitford
A Harvard man, a one time card-carrying communist party member turned public servant with a long though interrupted career in various governmental posts, from an administrative role in the Defense Department at Berlin during the Nuremberg trials, to the role of the President Nixon's special advisor on youth affairs, Walter F. Starbuck is about to be released from the Federal Minimum Security Adult Correctional Facility after serving two years as 'the least celebrated of all the Watergate coconsp...more

I've read them all, but the "minor" Vonnegut novels always get tangled in my memory so I try to cycle through them all once in a while. It's different every time as I get older, of course, and this was my third and deepest reading of Jailbird yet. Made much more sense and was more enjoyable. Another fine example of the way Vonnegut loves to play with time.
Kirstin Elaine Myers
This book had a surprise ending and I got amazed to see that Vonnegut mentioned my town of Gloucester, Cape Ann of which Gloucester is a part and Pride's Crossing in the nearby town of Beverly Farms. Also many of the issues he discusses, such as Ponzi schemes, are very relevant at the moment, even though this book was written in the late 70's. Some things never change!
Hagit Ingber
I loved this one. Every time I finish a Vonnegut book I feel like I was let in on a secret. Jailbird sure made me feel that way again.
I loved the passage between past and present and the rewriting of American history. Nobody does it better thAn Vonnegut.
Erik Graff
Feb 28, 2009 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Vonnegut fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
This is one of Vonnegut's more explicitly politically contemporary novels and one of his best--in his opinion as well as mine. I snuck it in just before starting the second semester at Loyola University.
Fantastic. The realization that started with Galápagos gets shored up here: I sometimes think Kurt Vonnegut is the only one of us who can do the true history of us any justice.
A funny account of how people mess up their own lives and the society they belong to.

Purely Vonnegut.
Li'l Vishnu

He gave me the key, which I later discovered would open practically every door in the hotel. I thanked him, and I made a small mistake we irony collectors often make: I tried to share an irony with a stranger. It can’t be done. I told him I had been in the Arapahoe before—in Nineteen-hundred and Thirty-one. He was not interested.
— p. 165

It turns out that my favorite line in this book is non-fiction. See, if you dig around for the story of Sacco and Vanzetti, you’ll find that all the little lege...more
Jailbird begins as a story about a man who has been jailed for having a very insignificant part in the Watergate scandal. Because of this, he is housed in a jail for white collar criminals near Atlanta, Georgia. The story traces his past beginning with his childhood as the son of two servants for the wealthy McCone family and continues on to tell about his life as a Harvard student and role in the HUAC hearings among other things.

I found the book to be characteristic of Vonnegut in that it is f...more
I’ll begin by acknowledging that Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors. With that admission on the table, I do try to approach each book without prejudgment and remain open to view each piece on its own merit. What I had forgotten was that Vonnegut always makes me laugh, and oftentimes guffaw, at some pretty heady stuff; wars, corruption, injustices, etc.

Jailbird delivers a convoluted story with outlandish characters that backdrop to the infamous Sacco and Vanzetti trial and the Watergate scand...more
Decent. I felt pretty let down after the first 100 or 150 pages, feeling like the trademark satire and bite that make his novels so classic was not only weak but almost completely missing; but he finishes this attempt with a decent third act that puts everything back in Vonnegut-perspective.

Billed as the story of a convicted Watergate man, I was expecting a spin on the nature of politics and trickery, whereas this was focusing more so on the re-entry into society of a man who once held communis...more
"There was more laughter all around. And I was suddenly offended and depressed by how silly we were. The news, after all, could hardly have been worse. Foreigners and criminals and other endlessly greedy conglomerates were gobbling up RAMJAC. Mary Kathleen's legacy to the people being converted to mountains of rapidly deteriorating currency, which were being squandered in turn on a huge new bureaucracy and on legal fees and consultant's fees, and on and on. What was left, it was said by the pol...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut
  • Good As Gold
  • The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity
  • Venus on the Half-Shell
  • Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
  • Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream
  • Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
  • A Confederate General from Big Sur
  • The Great American Novel
  • Vineland
  • And So it Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life
  • Antic Hay
  • Mumbo Jumbo
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...more
More about Kurt Vonnegut...
Slaughterhouse-Five Cat's Cradle Breakfast of Champions The Sirens of Titan Mother Night

Share This Book

“You can't just eat good food. You've got to talk about it too. And you've got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” 341 likes
“Never have I risked my life, or even my comfort, in the service of mankind. Shame on me.” 31 likes
More quotes…