from
Bagombo Snuff Box
Uncollected Short Fiction

by
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

This page:
Introduction
Thanasphere
Any Reasonable Offer
Poor Little Rich Town
Souvenir
The Cruise of The Jolly Roger
Custom-Made Bride
Unpaid Consultant
Find Me a Dream
Coda to My Career as a Writer for Periodicals

Category:

science fiction

index pages:
authors
titles
categories
topics
translators

Introduction

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999

I returned to Dresden, incidentally, the setting for Slaughterhouse-Five, on October 7th, 1998. I was taken down into the cellar where I and about a hundred other American POWs survived a firestorm that suffocated or incinerated 135,000 or so other human beings. It reduced the “Florence of the Elbe” to a jagged moonscape.

While I was down in that cellar again, this thought came to me: “Because I have lived so long, I am one of the few persons on Earth who saw an Atlantis before it disappeared forever beneath the waves.”

Slaughterhouse-Five

Dad is tired and blue. Dad starts to read. His pulse and breathing slow down. His troubles drop away, and so on.

Yes! And our little domestic playlet, true to life in the 1930s, dear reader, proves exactly what? It proves that a short story, because of its physiological and psychological effects on a human being, is more closely related to Buddhist styles of meditation than it is to any other form of narrative entertainment.

What you have in this volume, then, and in every other collection of short stories, is a bunch of Buddhist catnaps.

Now lend me your ears. Here is Creative Writing 101:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Topic:

Writing

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Thanasphere

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999
published in Collier’s

The secret papers in the safe weren’t secrets. They said what had been known for centuries: Given fundamental physics, it follows that a projectile fired into space in direction x, at y miles per hour, will travel in the arc z. Dr. Groszinger modified the equation: Given fundamental physics and one billion dollars.

Impending war had offered him the opportunity to try the experiment.

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Any Reasonable Offer

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999
published in Collier’s

Maybe dentists have rougher client relationships, but I doubt it. Give a man a choice between having his teeth or a real estate salesman’s commission extracted, and he’ll choose the pliers and novocaine every time.

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Poor Little Rich Town

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999
published in Collier’s

“A village isn’t like a factory, where you can walk in and see what’s being made at a glance, and then look at the books and see if it’s a good or bad operation. We’re not manufacturing or selling anything. We’re trying to live together. Every man’s got to be his own expert at that, and it takes years.”

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Souvenir

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999
published in Argosy

He was a lonely, untalented man and would not have wanted to go on living had he been prevented from playing every day save Sunday the one game he played brilliantly—the acquiring of objects for very little, and the selling of them for a great deal more. He was obsessed by the game, the one opportunity life offered him to best his fellow men. The game was the thing, the money he made a secondary matter, a way of keeping score.

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
The Cruise of
The Jolly Roger

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999
published in Cape Cod Compass

He spent seventeen years in the Army, thinking of the earth as terrain, of the hills and valleys as enfilade and defilade, of the horizon as something a man should never silhouette himself against, of the houses and woods and thickets as cover. It was a good life, and when he got tired of thinking about war, he got himself a girl and a bottle, and the next morning he was ready to think about war some more.

Topic:

Soldiering

Had he been in his old uniform, seeming as he’d liked to seem in the old days, about to leave on a dangerous mission, he and the woman might have strolled off together. Women had once treated him like a small boy with special permission to eat icing off cakes.

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Custom-Made Bride

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999

Copyright © 1954 The Curtis Publishing Company, Indianapolis
published in The Saturday Evening Post

“He’s blown every dime of it on parties, nightclubbing, his house, and clothes for his wife,” said Hal.

“Hooray,” I said. “That’s the investment advice I always wanted to give, but nobody would pay for it.”

Topic:

Advice

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Unpaid Consultant

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999

Copyright © 1955 Hearst Communications, Inc.
published in Cosmopolitan

Most married women won’t meet an old beau for cocktails, send him a Christmas card, or even look him straight in the eye. But if they happen to need something an old beau sells—anything from an appendectomy to venetian blinds—they’ll come bouncing back into his life, all pink and smiling, to get it for wholesale or less.

If a Don Juan were to go into the household appliance business, his former conquests would ruin him inside of a year.

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Find Me a Dream

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999

Copyright © 1961 Hearst Communications, Inc.
published in Cosmopolitan

“I never want to see another musician as long as I live,” she said.

“In that case,” he said, “close your eyes and I’ll tiptoe away.” But he didn’t leave.

“That’s your band—playing tonight?” she said. They could hear the music quite clearly.

“That’s right,” he said.

“You can stay,” she said.

“Pardon me?” he said.

“You’re no musician,” she said, “or that band would have made you curl up and die.”

“You’re the first person who ever listened to it,” he said.

Topic:

Music

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page
Coda to My Career as a Writer for Periodicals

Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 1999

Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith and William Griffith Wilson were in Akron in 1935 when they devised the Twelve Steps to sobriety of Alcoholics Anonymous. By comparison with Smith and Wilson, Sigmund Freud was a piker when it came to healing dysfunctional minds and lives.

Topic:

Freud

New York and Boston and other ports on the Atlantic have Europe for an influential, often importunate neighbor. Middle Westerners do not. Many of us of European ancestry are on that account ignorant of our families’ past in the Old World and the culture there. Our only heritage is American. When Germans captured me during the Second World War, one asked me, “Why are you making war against your brothers?” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. . . .

Anglo-Americans and African-Americans whose ancestors came to the Middle West from the South commonly have a much more compelling awareness of a homeland elsewhere in the past than do I—in Dixie, of course, not the British Isles or Africa.

What geography can give all Middle Westerners, along with the fresh water and topsoil, if they let it, is awe for a fertile continent stretching forever in all directions.

Makes you religious. Takes your breath away.

text checked (see note) Jan 2021

top of page