Jake's Reviews > While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction

While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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's review
Oct 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories
Read from October 04 to 17, 2011

In the introduction, Dave Eggers addresses Vonnegut as a moral compass of the last two generations. And Eggers may be right, but in such an obscure, wacky way that it's sort of hard to tell.

Vonnegut's short stories offer characters with insight and insanity, so they exist as mild fantasy characters living out their crazy existence in the real world. Vonnegut's real world has almost-magic and almost-surrealism. But it always falls short (purposefully, of course), so that the peculiar tale comes to exist in the world of day jobs and weekend getaways.

His characters in this collection are earnest oddballs, from the guy who turns a fridge into a lover to the painters' wives that hate what art is. There's insurance brokers who try to curb the disease of family life and opera singers who open doughnut shops under the guise of an alter ego. It's all so silly. And tragic. And hopeless. And goofy. And mesmerizing. And everything that makes people believe in what they want to instead of what they should.

That's what Vonnegut does. He welcomes the childish and the glory-hungry and gives them the crushing treatment of a long life. In between those lines that all Vonnegut characters draw up, you can find the humanity, the social commentary, the observation of nuances that writers don't often offer. And it's written in the style of a 20th Century Mark Twain, like all these colorful kooks will be talked about as literary relics in another hundred years.

And who better to do that than Kurt Vonnegut?

Who else is going to be sillier than the conservatives but sterner than the yokels? Who else is going to narrate the long battle of mankind's good and evil in a day-to-day, person-to-person, face-to-face one-act play? Shit, who else wants to do it? Vonnegut will do it for free.

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