Look at the Birdie (Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007) - Delacorte Press - 2009 - 251 pages

This is a collection of 14 previously unpublished short stories issued two years after his death and without the "Jr." after his name.

Confido - This is a story about a man who invents a box that communicates with whomever is plugged into it.  The box is supposed to be a friendly companion but seems to provide mostly negative thoughts.  The story ends abruptly with the box warning the inventor about some unspecified future.  I think that Mr. Vonnegut would have been saddened to see this story in print as is.  It appears that he had reached a dead end with it or had not liked where the story was going.  It is possible that the Vonnegut heirs found Confido crumpled in a ball in a trash receptacle where it belonged. [JAM 11/25/2009]

FUBAR - I liked this story.  I can identify with the protagonist, Fuzz Littler stuck in a dull job until an optimistic young woman appears to make it all better.  This is true Vonnegut stuff.  I just wonder why it was not published until after his death. [JAM 11/26/2009]

Shout About It From the Rooftops - The aluminum storm window salesman is the only person in this Vermont town who does not know the rich and famous but unhappy Morgan couple.  She wrote a book and he did not like it.  This is another story that could have stayed in the circular file. [JAM 11/28/2009]

Ed Luby's Key Club - This is a rather depressing story about an ex-Mafia thug who owns a small town in middle town.  The story moves along well but seems to be rushed at the end.  It appears that this one was written during Vonnegut's "magazine phase" before he found success with his novels.  My guess is that there was more than one rejection notice associated with the story. [JAM 11/29/2009]

A Song For Selma - This is a rather confusing story about intelligence and what makes a person a genius.  The ending is very strange.  This seems like an unfinished story that was finished by someone other than Vonnegut.  I could be wrong. [JAM 11/30/2009]

Hall of Mirrors - This story is about a hypnotist, some mirrors and some missing people.  I am not sure what the point of it all is.  It may have been another unfinished story with a quick ending.  And by the way, Los Angeles is not on a navigable waterway and it is larger than Indianapolis. [JAM 12/1/2009]

The Nice Little People - This is the first story in the collection that displays Kurt Vonnegut's flair for science fiction.  An ordinary man (Lowell Swift) finds a tiny spaceship shaped like a knife.  The knife is eventually used as an accidental weapon.  The ending raises more questions than it answers.  What is going to happen to the little people?  Is Lowell guilty of a crime?  What will happen when the weapon is examined by investigators?  [JAM 12/2/2009] 

Hello, Red - Red Mayo and his daughter, Nancy have red hair.  And your point is? [JAM 12/3/2009]

Little Drops of Water - Larry is the confirmed bachelor who cannot fit a committed relationship into his busy life.  However, Ellen refuses to quit and eventually traps her based.  Methinks that both are losers. [JAM 12/4/2009]

The Petrified Ants - In Communist Russia, two brothers are summoned to examined some ancient petrified ant colonies.  Both happened to be myrmecologists (ant experts) which are apparently common occupations in the country.  The brothers discovered that ancient ants were intelligent with books, music and framed art hanging on the walls of their cottages.  Some of them probably smoked pipes and belonged to the country club.  As time passed, the brothers discovered that the intelligent ants slowly disappeared as more militant ants invaded the colonies.  In other words, communism destroys civilized societies.  Too bad it was a short story.  I assume that the brothers also discovered tiny fast food restaurants and bowling alleys. [JAM 12/5/2009]

The Honor of a Newsboy - This is a murder mystery with some circumstantial evidence based on one missing newspaper.  This is another story that ended suddenly.  The copyright page claims that stories have been "edited only minimally from the originals."  Interpretation: many of these stories had no endings. [JAM 12/6/2009]

Look at the Birdie - The crazy man and his wife have created the perfect crime.  Has the protagonist of this story ever heard about law enforcement?  The moral of this story: stay away from sleazy bars. [JAM 12/7/2009]

King and Queen of the Universe - In the middle of the Great Depression, a young couple from wealthy families meet an unemployed, bedraggled industrial chemist in the park after midnight and decide to go with him so he can show some rich people to his mother.  Everything was going well until the police broke down the door.

The Good Explainer - So, a married couple drives from Ohio to Chicago, Illinois to see a particular doctor and they make separate appointments?  I'm not buying it.  What, did they drive separate cars from Ohio?  Peter is rather naive and his wife is rather psychotic.  The doctor did nothing wrong.  Leave him alone!

True Vonnegut fans will enjoy this journey back to the days before he became famous.  The Vonnegut style is evident.  However, I think that he would be mortified if he knew that these were to be published after his death.  I believe that these stories needed a lot of work before publication.  [JAM 12/9/2009]