MJ Nicholls's Reviews > While Mortals Sleep

While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut
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did not like it
bookshelves: merkins, short-stories, the-art-of-loathing

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 These unpublished bottom-drawer pieces have good twists and morals, and as ‘Guardian of the Person’ or ‘Out, Brief Candle’ show, can be moving .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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Reading Progress

February 20, 2012 – Started Reading
February 28, 2012 – Shelved
February 28, 2012 – Shelved as: merkins
February 28, 2012 – Shelved as: short-stories
February 28, 2012 – Shelved as: the-art-of-loathing
February 29, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez It's a shame that so many gifted writers have their names dragged through the mud by their reckless, greedy estates. Rather than embracing the editing process, paying strict attention to the overall success or failure of craft in any particular work, and having standards concerning the creative endeavors of an author that one chooses to present to the reading world, it seems that the trend these days--once an author has reached a certain amount of notoriety--is to just publish all but their fucking grocery lists. Pretty unfortunate, really.


message 2: by MJ (last edited Feb 28, 2012 02:19PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls I agree. Problem with these pieces is they are competent examples of stories written for Ladies' Home Journal or the then-equivalent of Chicken Soup For the Soul . . . they don't seek judgement on any other level. The extent to which fans of Mother Night or Jailbird want to read shavings from a writer's table is the question. Judging by the five-star review plethora here, clearly fans lap up every morsel.


message 3: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez You would think there's plenty enough Vonnegut to read already. I mean, seriously. Maybe I'm going to sound like an a-hole here, but I did work in a bookstore for a long time, and got the impression that whatever shiny cover that a virgin to [insert renowned author] manages to pick up first has pretty much been assigned the title of "awesome!" no matter what, just 'cuz of who he or she is. Maybe not, but it kinda seemed that way to me at the time, and goodreads has intensified this feeling. Hell, I'm not much better, though. It's work to really step back and fairly/critically assess a weaker work by an author I particularly love. I rated a Dostoevsky collection 3 stars the other day (fairly, I feel), and it kinda made me wince a bit.


message 4: by MJ (last edited Feb 28, 2012 02:38PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls I was that virgin. Or maybe it was the second Vonnegut I'd read . . . but I saw Hocus Pocus in a bookshop and pretty much thought "awesome" throughout (reading). It's actually one of his worst novels. I couldn't get through the first ten pages when I tried a re-read. Hmm. Hardest thing to admit is our heroes might produce turds from time to time, or their estates will on their behalf.


message 5: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Ha! Hocus Pocus was also my first Vonnegut way back in HS, and I really did like it at the time. Who knows what I would think of it now...

And so it went that my accusatory tone and finger-pointing at the world came full-circle! I will comfort myself with the assurance that I am a somewhat more careful reader these days. Fingers crossed.


message 6: by Tuck (new)

Tuck Paquita Maria wrote: "Ha! Hocus Pocus was also my first Vonnegut way back in HS, and I really did like it at the time. Who knows what I would think of it now...

And so it went that my accusatory tone and finger-point..."


full circle, ahole, crossed fingers...i'm all confused now


message 7: by MJ (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls Tuck wrote: "full circle, ahole, crossed fingers...i'm all confused now "

The girl's a gymnast. Clearly.


message 8: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Heh, finger.


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