MJ Nicholls's Reviews > While Mortals Sleep
While Mortals Sleep
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 confess: I dislike the hack! I don’t rate his short stories at all. They strip the essence of his Vonnegutness completely, leaving a first-rate craftsman and moralist without the satirical bite and crazy exuberance of Cat’s Cradle et al. These unpublished bottom-drawer pieces have good twists and morals, and as ‘Guardian of the Person’ or ‘Out, Brief Candle’ show, can be moving . . . but slim pickings. The short form has come a long way since these pieces were composed. The boredom sets in quite early on here, and completion is a struggle. (I skipped the last four). Why did I bother? Why, I’m a Vonnegut completist-obsessive, of course. Duh.
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