Bite-Sized Vonnegut: Some Short Works

Kurt Vonnegut was nothing if not prolific: 14 novels, 3 collections of short stories (only 1 of which was published during his lifetime), a number of essay collections, too many other articles and pieces to name. It’s almost impossible to be familiar with all of his work, and readers today are busy. If you know someone who might like Vonnegut but doesn’t have time to curl up with Cat’s Cradle right now, or if you know an established Vonnegut fan who’s read all the novels and wants a peek at what else is out there, try these short Vonnegut pieces and interviews.

“Report on the Barnhouse Effect” is Kurt’s very first published short story. It appeared in Collier’s magazine in 1950 and was also included in the collection Welcome to the Monkey House. It’s about a college professor and his experiments with rolling dice. If you want to read some early Vonnegut, this is as early as it gets. If you want to read it, follow this link.

“The Shapes of Stories” is a theory Kurt devised in the 1960s, when he submitted a second thesis to the University of Chicago in an attempt to garner a pay raise from his then-job as professor at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. For a video of Kurt explaining his theory, follow this link.

“The Latest Word” is probably the funniest review of a Random House dictionary that’s ever been written. This was the review that got Kurt noticed by Seymour Lawrence of Dell Publishing. Lawrence would later offer Kurt a book deal for Slaughterhouse-Five and Kurt’s next two books. He also smartly bought the rights to Kurt’s earlier books. The review is on The New York Times archive and can be found here.

“How to Write with Style” is one of the best essays around about the art of writing, and it’s only a couple of pages long. It’s no surprise that Kurt wrote it. As Stephen King said in his excellent and short book On Writing, “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit . . . I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.” Kurt would have agreed, as you’ll see from his essay.

If you decide you want to check out some of Kurt’s longer works after enjoying these short ones, click here. Happy reading!

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