‘Who Am I This Time?’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Who Am I This Time? by Kurt Vonnegut, 1961 Continue reading


June 2014 favorites


June 2014

The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time’ by Peter Taylor
  2. ‘Blackberry Winter’ by Robert Penn Warren
  3. ‘Babylon Revisited’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. ‘Upon The Sweeping Flood’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  5. ‘Good Country People’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘My Old Man’ by Ernest Hemingway
  7. ‘I’m A Fool’ by Sherwood Anderson
  8. ‘Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin
  9. ‘Only The Dead Know Brooklyn’ by Thomas Wolfe
  10. ‘Double Birthday’ by Willa Cather
  11. ‘The View From The Balcony’ by Wallace Stegner
  12. ‘The Magic Barrel’ by Bernard Malamud
  13. ‘No Place For You, My Love’ by Eudora Welty
  14. ‘The Schreuderspitze’ by Mark Helprin
  15. ‘The Hartleys’ by John Cheever
  16. ‘O City Of Broken Dreams’ by John Cheever
  17. ‘A Day In The Open’ by Jane Bowles
  18. ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson
  19. ‘In The Zoo’ by Jean Stafford
  20. ‘The Lost Phoebe’ by Theodore Dreiser
  21. ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  22. ‘How Beautiful With Shoes’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele
  23. ‘The Little Wife’ by William March
  24. ‘A Distant Episode’ by Paul Bowles
  25. ‘The Faithful Wife’ by Morley Callaghan
  26. ‘The Golden Honeymoon’ by Ring Lardner
  27. ‘Resurrection Of A Life’ by William Saroyan
  28. ‘The State Of Grace’ by Harold Brodkey
  29. ‘A Telephone Call’ by Dorothy Parker
  30. ‘The Survivors’ by Elsie Singmaster

‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

vonnegut, kurt 1961

Welcome To The Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., 1961

The magic trick:

Giving the reader a no-win sympathy situation

The reader, much like the characters in this story, has nowhere good to turn in this monkey house. Vonnegut’s picture of the future is pretty bleak. Now perhaps this is an immature, even stupid, approach to art, but I find that when I read fiction, I need a character, or at least an idea, with which to sympathize. I need to know right from wrong at least. I’m guessing this is a not-uncommon expectation. Vonnegut, though, has no patience for readers like us.

Consider the options he provides here. You can sympathize with the suicide nurse who believes in a sexless life of robot efficiency. Not so great, right? Well, the “hero” – the advocate for sex and passion and emotion – believes kidnapping, imprisonment, and rape are the only means for his message. It’s very difficult to read those passages, let alone sympathize with his agenda.

So where does that leave us? Well, I’ll tell you. It leaves us alone and anxious and fearful and full of disdain for both sides of the sexual revolution. In other words: exactly where the author wants us. And that’s quite a trick on Vonnegut’s part.

The selection:

“I never listen to a woman till the pills wear off,” sneered Billy. That was his plan, then – to keep her a prisoner for at least eight hours. That was how long it took for the pills to wear off.

“That’s a silly rule.”

“A woman’s not a woman till the pills wear off.”

“You certainly manage to make a woman feel like an object rather than a person.”

“Thank the pills for that,” said Billy.