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While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  5,355 ratings  ·  524 reviews
Foreword by Dave Eggers

Smart, whimsical, and often scathing, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut influenced a generation of American writers—including Dave Eggers, author of this volume’s Foreword. In these previously unpublished gems, Vonnegut’s originality infuses a unique landscape of factories, trailers, and bars—and characters who pit their dreams and fears against a cruel a
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Delacorte Press
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MJ Nicholls
Lordy, why were these stories published? This is buried-in-the-bottom-drawer stuff, early examples of competence in the writing-for-slicks-and-glossies side of Kurt’s career. There were two sides to Kurt in the fifties and sixties: one was the knockout novelist who wrote prophetic, visionary, hilarious, moving and perfect books of permanence that no one noticed until Slaughterhouse V. Then there was the hack who wrote formulaic stories to keep his family in shoes, clothes and Drano. And I confes ...more
Chris Remo
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Since Kurt Vonnegut’s death, there have been three volumes of previously unpublished Vonnegut short fiction. I didn’t bother with them initially, because I don’t gravitate to short stories to begin with, and on top of that I figured the posthumously published leftovers probably weren’t the cream of the crop.

But recently it struck me that we won’t be getting any more genuinely new Vonnegut material ever (not the first time that realization has come to me as if it were a new discovery), so when I
Sarah Booth
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vonnegut delivers

A collection of short stories that make you think about humanity and it’s short comings and it’s strengths that often lie hidden. There are some wonderful tales in here and some comedy that was brilliant. The last story of the ignorant battling wives of two different types of artists was brilliant. Vonnegut can make you think and examine the human soul without leaving you completely disturbed like some writers. He offers you food for thought but not so rich you over do it, or so
Aug 02, 2014 marked it as abandoned
Eh. I think, as other reviews on this site have stated more eloquently than I can, that these stories were in the 'unpublished' pile for a reason. Make no mistake: each and every one is better than something I could write, but compared to Vonnegut when he's on fire ... well, they're lacking.

I went to pick it up today to finish off the last few stories and found myself staring at the rest of my to-read pile and my hand went straight to the next book in line. I could kid myself and say that I'll b
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I just loved these stories by Vonnegut. I feel like he‘s talking to me - Hey, this is sad and crazy and even pathetic, but it‘s life and there‘s nothing much to do about it - so don‘t take it so seriously and smile for a moment! Hope lives where humour can be so bright...
Sorin Hadârcă
Good enough for a debutante. Although the stories are not dated, that's the feeling. Like watching a good old movie - too many clichés, reality being edited out of the picture for the sake of a twisted ending.
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I could continue reading Vonnegut's unpublished works forever and I wish I could. There are only a few clunkers in this volume (The Epizootic, Guardian of the Person, While Mortals Sleep)- primarily because they end too abruptly.

Jenny is a treasure of a story. It is a heartbreaking story of a lonely appliance salesman and his talking, dancing refrigerator.

Hundred Dollar Kisses recounts the justifiable reason a man would beat his officemate with a telephone - "the part you talk and listen in". V
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Not stellar, but a decent collection. And the artwork was a nice touch.


• Ruth
• Out, Brief Candle
• The Man Without No Kiddleys
Andrew Nguyen
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I love Vonnegut, but I don't love this collection of short stories. If Welcome to the Monkey House is Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on DVD, then While Mortals Sleep is 1.5 hours of Gollum outtakes and bloopers. It's entertaining for fans, but not that strong on its own.

Vonnegut is a master of taking a small slice of science fiction and turning it into a story about human relations. That is almost entirely absent in this collection, as this is a collection of earlier Vonnegut works. The e
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
I often feel that posthumous releases of an author's early work are little more than a money grab by the publisher. However, in this case, I'm glad these early stories made their way into the world.

This is a side of Vonnegut that fans of his later work may not completely appreciate, but I enjoyed all the stories. Warm, often funny, and with a gentle reminder of the simpler morals of a time long passed, the stories are a light read--well worth it for anyone who appreciates short fiction.
Prakash Yadav
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Vonnegut's short stories are among the best I have ever read, and I find myself recommending them to others quite often.
With 'Jenny' as the first story the curator set a very high bar for the following stories, for 'Jenny' turned out to be my favourite !
Among other favourites were 'The Girl Pool' and 'Out, Brief Candle'.
The title story 'While Mortals Sleep' wasn't quite impressive in my opinion.
Though I firmly believe my toaster was Picasso in its past life, the illustrations in this book were q
Rachel McDonald
I found this to be quite a hit and miss combination of short stories. Having said that, I often feel that with short story collections of people that I love. If you are a Kurt Vonnegut fan, you should definitely read this book. If you are looking for an introduction, this isn't the first choice.
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Kurt Vonnegut was unquestionably my favorite author when I was in high school. My most beloved English teacher, the grey-bearded Mr. Hansen (who somewhat resembled an Anglo-Saxon vision of God, if God wore Hawaiian shirts and linen shorts in the summertime), wrote something in my yearbook about how I had a Vonnegut-like sensibility. Nothing could've made me more proud. It's been years since I read anything by the man, though, and when my friend Lauren recommended this collection, I put it on hol ...more
"While Mortals Sleep" is definitely the least-great Vonnegut book I have read so far, but that doesn't mean much since all of the other Vonnegut books I have read have received 5 stars. This collection of short stories is definitely flawed, there are a couple of stories that I found to be utterly boring and awful ("Bomar", "$10,00 a Year, Easy") and a few that weren't all too interesting or memorable ("Out, Brief Candle", "Tango"). However, a vast majority of the stories were fairly entertaining ...more
Stuff I Read - While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut Review

So I would consider myself a fan of Vonnegut, due mostly to a busy summer when I read through a number of his books. I have been curious to see how many of those books would hold up now that I'm older (I was in High School at the time). Here, though, is something completely new to me, and short fiction as well, but as I liked Welcome to the Monkey House I figured I would like these as well. And, for the most part, they have a good deal of
Paul Cockeram
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dave Eggars shares some rare insight in his introduction to these previously unpublished stories. He points out how these early works were written by a young Vonnegut with a new family and all the resulting worries about money, stability, and career. (One character even toils as an engineer for the phone company while writing on the side, like Vonnegut himself.) Most of the conflicts concern the value of money versus art, or passion, or love—the intangibles Vonnegut spent his life uplifting, in ...more
EZRead eBookstore
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jenifer-reviews
There are 16 short stories in “While Mortals Sleep,” and I really loved all of them. I’m not afraid to climb on top of one of those old trick planes and wave a banner from the sky: “I NO LONGER THINK KURT VONNEGUT IS JUST OKAY….HE IS WONDERFUL!”

In all wickedness, I had only read “Slaughterhouse-Five” as my Kurt Vonnegut read beforehand. He seems to be touted by most everyone, but is especially praised by post-students who thought their assigned school reading (and nothing else) was “far out”. S
Ant Flude
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some of these stories were right proper five stars good, some were four star yolo swag stories and some were three and maybe two stars depending on how preachy and heavy -handed Vonnegut gets in the final few pages (HEY EVERYONE MONEY CHANGES PEOPLE DOESN'T IT LOL). At times, and I'm thinking particularly about the penultimate story "Money Talks" here, Vonnegut feels more like a sleepy old grandpa than he does a writer, waking up from his drug-induced coma every now and then to remind us of what ...more
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first took up this book in a bookstore a couple of years ago - it might have been newly out - read a story or two and sort-of became my bookstore-reading book, the one I looked at when I went to the store to pass some time and didn't have any other interests. Now I finally read it (I can scratch it out of my to-read list after all that time!)and I wasn't disappointed.

When I looked briefly into the comments section, most people seemed to compare "While mortals sleep" with Kurt Vonnegut's other
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There are authors so important that you mourn their passing, and honestly I thought we'd already seen all we'd see from Vonnegut. My visceral reaction to seeing this volume at the library led me to bringing it home, although I have to admit I skimmed a few of the stories I didn't connect with as much because I had to return it! New books should have *longer* checkout periods, not shorter. :)

These are unpublished short fictions from earlier in Vonnegut's life, so they are different from most shor
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never read any of Vonnegut's short stories before (nor, for that matter, have I read many of his novels), but this seemed like as good a place as any to start. After reading Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle I have come to know Vonnegut as a darkly satirical writer, but this collection shows a lighter side of his work. While all the tales have something to teach you, they are overall still optimistic - admittedly it was a sigh of relief after reading a collection of Richard Yates's storie ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: may-june-2011
While most reviewers considered these stories, written to meet the expectations of a bygone era, quaint and nostalgic if nonetheless still relevant to our times, a few found their emphasis on plot twists and explicit morals passé. All, however, agreed that Vonnegut’s dry and unassuming tone, unadorned prose, and unique vision of life are evident even at this early stage in his career. For most, this was reason enough to pay tribute to and recommend this posthumous collection. Vonnegut’s enduring ...more
Chickens McShitterson
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Full disclosure: I am biased with Kurt.
There is little more satisfying than a well-written short story. In his collection Bagombo Snuff Box, Vonnegut outlined the necessary elements of a successful short story. This early collection sees him simultaneously obey and break the rules he later set forth, with gleeful abandon and his usual irreverence. Most of the stories in Where Mortals Sleep are of a fairly straightforward fare and highlight a burgeoning genius of the literary world.

Lil' Grogan
3.5 stars. I felt an odd sense of dread when reading more than two of these stories in a row. The sameness of the themes throughout the stories and strong moralistic tone got overbearing. However, the thrill of his stringing together of words, his touch with humour and dialogue; and the tension between and within players drew me into the stories. Of course, part of the thrill was simply a younger, unpublished Vonnegut.

Standouts for me: While Mortals Sleep, With His Hand on the Throttle and The
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If this doesn't give hope to struggling writers, I don't know what would. Sure these seem like simple, maybe boring, stories, but they show KV in his creative development! It is the beginning of an autobiography of sorts of KV as a writer. This isn't Welcome to the Monkey House, nor were these stories intended to be. These are the stories of a man publishing to get published, all the while practicing and perfecting his incredible gifts of wit, insight, and storytelling. A must-read for all KV fa ...more
Martin Boyle
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
The best of short stories, Vonnegut packs unusual (if not improbable) story lines with unlikely characters into a few very compelling pages. No matter how impossible the story, how strange the character, the story comes alive. Fantasy, for a few delightful minutes becomes real, the boundaries of credulity are pushed to extremes.

While Mortals Sleep has 16 well told tales. Unexpected stories, each one is compelling, unusual, unreal and, for the reading, entirely compelling, eminently believable.
Jan 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
What can I say about Vonnegut? It's ages since I read him, and this book of unpublished short stories is a bit difficult at the start. Let's see how I get on.

Finished. He's sometimes hard to take, the stories can be contrived, but he has a super imagination. Or he had, the guy died last year.
Marc Ocana
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Forgot to add this in.

Anyway, I liked this one a lot since this was a Kurt Vonnegut before the war savaged his views on man and mankind in general. The stories somehow had a sense of the young Kurt when he was striving to make ends meet, without the bitterness shown in his later novels.
Adam Floridia
Dec 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: vonnegut
Simple, sweet little stories from a clearly developing Vonnegut, but still a gift from beyond the grave.
Jan 13, 2011 marked it as to-read
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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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