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Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

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For this unusual collection of vintage Vonnegut, the author selected 24 of his stories, written between 1954 and 1961 and published in magazines, and added a new Preface for the occasion.


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For this unusual collection of vintage Vonnegut, the author selected 24 of his stories, written between 1954 and 1961 and published in magazines, and added a new Preface for the occasion.

30 review for Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Bagombo Snuff box: uncollected short fiction, Kurt Vonnegut Bagombo Snuff Box is a collection of 23 short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut. The stories were originally published in US periodicals between 1950 and 1962. This collection was published in 1999 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. Stories: "Thanasphere"; "Mnemonics"; "Any Reasonable Offer"; "The Package";"The No-Talent Kid"; "Poor Little Rich Town"; "Souvenir"; "The Cruise of the Jolly Roger"; "Custom-made Bride"; "Ambitious Sophomore"; "Bagombo Sn Bagombo Snuff box: uncollected short fiction, Kurt Vonnegut Bagombo Snuff Box is a collection of 23 short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut. The stories were originally published in US periodicals between 1950 and 1962. This collection was published in 1999 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. Stories: "Thanasphere"; "Mnemonics"; "Any Reasonable Offer"; "The Package";"The No-Talent Kid"; "Poor Little Rich Town"; "Souvenir"; "The Cruise of the Jolly Roger"; "Custom-made Bride"; "Ambitious Sophomore"; "Bagombo Snuff Box"; "The Powder-Blue Dragon"; "A Present for Big Saint Nick"; "Unpaid Consultant"; "Der Arme Dolmetscher"; "The Boy Who Hated Girls"; "This Son of Mine"; "A Night for Love"; "Find Me a Dream"; "Runaways"; "2BR02B"; "Lovers Anonymous"; "Hal Irwin's Magic Lamp". تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانزدهم ماه آگوست سال 2008 میلادی عنوان: انفیه‌ دان باگومبو؛ نویسنده: کورت ونه گات؛ مترجمها: روحی افسر؛ شهرزاد مهدوی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، کلاغ سفید، 1386، در 422 ص، شابک: 9789649165417؛ موضوع: داستانهای کوتاه نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م فهرست داستانهای کوتاه: «1 - تاناسفر: مردی را با سفینه به خارج جو میفرستند ولی او صدای ارواح را میشنود»؛ «2 - فن تقویت حافظه: به مرد یاد میدهد برای حفظ کردن باید با کلمات داستان بسازد»؛ «3 - پیشنهاد با صرفه: زن و مرد خود را خریدار نشان میدهند و چند روزی در خانه های اشرافی میزیند»؛ «4 - مجموعه: مرد اکنون بسیار ثروت مند است و قرار است یکی از همکلاسیهای پولدار قدیمی به دیدنش بیاید»؛ «5 - بچه ی بی استعداد: پسرک استعداد موسیقی ندارد اما ول کن قضیه نیست»؛ «6 - شهر کوچک ثروتمند و نگونبخت: با آمدن کارخانه زمینهای شهر دوباره شاید ارزشمند شوند»؛ «7 - یادگاری: مرد میخواهد ساعت یادگار جنگ را بفروشد»؛ «8 - سفر دریایی جولی راجرز: مرد قایقی خریده و میخواهد به زادگاه دوست دیرین خویش سر بزند»؛ «9 - عروس دست ساز: مرد عاشق مد است و زنش را مجبور به پیروی میکند»؛ «10 - سال دومی جاه طلب: مربی موسیقی متوجه میشود فرد اصلی گروه به خاطر هیکلش اعتماد به نفس ندارد»؛ «11 - انفیه دان باگومبو: مرد به دیدار همسر نخست خود میرود. مرد او را رها کرده تا به دنبال زندگی خویشتن باشد»؛ «12 - اژدهای آبی روشن: پسر بی چیز همه ی پولش را صرف خرید یک ماشین فوق العاده گران میکند»؛ «13 - تقدیم به بابانوئل نیک گنده: مرد پول زیادی به افرادش میدهد اما در قبالش آنها را در جلوی فرزندانشان خار میکند»؛ «14 - مشاوره بی جیره و مواجب: دوست دختر قدیمی مرد ستاره مشهوری شده و از او میخواهد برای سرمایه گذاری کمکش کند»؛ «15 - دیلماج فلک زده: مرد شعری به آلمانی حفظ کرده و برای همین او را به جای مترجم میگیرند»؛ «16 - پسری که از دخترها فراری بود: همه هدف پسر از موسیقی علاقه اش به مربی است»؛ «17 - این آقا پسر من: مرد کارخانه دار برای پسرش آرزوهایی دارد، رابطه ی پدران و پسران است»؛ «18 - برای من رویایی پیدا کن: شهری که همه چیزش وابسته به صنعت لوله است»؛ «19 - : عشق دو نوجوان دارا و بی چیز »؛ «20 - عشاق گمنام: زمانی همه پسرها آرزوی ازدواج با شیلا را داشتند و فکر نمیکردند دختری به باهوشی او به فکر خانه دار شدن باشد»؛ «21 - چراغ جادوی هل ایروین: مرد مدتها پس انداز کرده تا زنش را وارد یک زندگی مرفه بکند»؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 23/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    “Why don't you say, 'I am going to build a life for myself, for my time, and make it a work of art'?. . . Design your life like that Finnish carafe over there--clean, harmonious, alive with the cool, tart soul of truth in our time.” A short collection of early short stories by Vonnegut, with an introduction by the author himself, which is the highlight of the collection, especially since I listened to it in the car. I only listened to this now because it was the only free Vonnegut collection I co “Why don't you say, 'I am going to build a life for myself, for my time, and make it a work of art'?. . . Design your life like that Finnish carafe over there--clean, harmonious, alive with the cool, tart soul of truth in our time.” A short collection of early short stories by Vonnegut, with an introduction by the author himself, which is the highlight of the collection, especially since I listened to it in the car. I only listened to this now because it was the only free Vonnegut collection I could find from my library’s subscription series, and I wanted to breathe in some of his comforting, bemused, humane cynicism. The collection is not his best work, but you do hear his voice in the stories and there’s playfulness and reflection on American consumerist/war culture throughout. Having just read George Saunders, I feel they are kindred spirits. And also with fellow (for a time) Chicagoan Ray Bradbury, though there are only two science fiction stories here. It’s the warmth, that humane, aw-shucks tone they can affect at times. And Mark Twain, I often think of him when I read Vonnegut. The introduction is about how he started to make money as a short story writer and was able to get out of working for General Electric. It includes reflections on a time when more people read short stories (though it seems steadily the same to me over the past decades, not as popular as novels, of course). He shares his advice for writers, which is invaluable: 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. Most of the stories are inferior to ones in later collections, but the best of them is "2 B R 0 2 B" which is a satire on population control.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    “A man sells something priceless for a price he can’t resist.” The genre of short story is hit or miss with me. Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories are usually the same way. In his Introduction to this collection of “Buddhist catnaps” as Vonnegut calls all short stories, I am reminded why I love this writer so much. “Bagombo Snuff Box” is a collection of 23 stories that Vonnegut wrote during his days as a writer of short fiction peddling his wares to the various magazines of the day. Most were written “A man sells something priceless for a price he can’t resist.” The genre of short story is hit or miss with me. Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories are usually the same way. In his Introduction to this collection of “Buddhist catnaps” as Vonnegut calls all short stories, I am reminded why I love this writer so much. “Bagombo Snuff Box” is a collection of 23 stories that Vonnegut wrote during his days as a writer of short fiction peddling his wares to the various magazines of the day. Most were written in the 1950s. As mentioned, I am not a fan of short stories in general, but Vonnegut’s gift for quick and artful characterization makes otherwise bland stories at least interesting. The first paragraph of the story “Souvenir” is one of the most adept brief characterizations I have come across in literature. My instant distaste for the character made me feel sadness, as there are many folks like Joe Bane (the character’s name) in this world. In one paragraph, Vonnegut captures their essence. The collection also includes some lovely stories that follow Vonnegut’s persistent theme of simplicity. “Poor Little Rich Town” has a classic Vonnegut ring to it and a pastoral sense of life that is not driven by profit & commodity margins. The same feeling can be said of the story “The Cruise of the Jolly Roger”, a tribute to veterans and the beauty of a small and peaceful quiet village life. This text also features three stories about George M. Helmholtz, director of the Lincoln High School Band. Helmholtz is one of my favorite Vonnegut creations. A complete character and one I adore. He was featured in one of my favorite Vonnegut stories from his 1968 collection “Welcome to the Monkey House”. I wish Helmholtz had been a protagonist of one of Vonnegut’s novels. The character was worthy of one. Also noteworthy is the piece, “A Night for Love”. It is a love story, a simple story, and one unlike most Vonnegut I have read (stylistically). It is a story that speaks a simple, elegant truth about human interactions. Some people have criticized this collection (published in 1999) as dated. Yep, some of the stories are certainly dated. They are products of their time, the 1950s. So what? They should be products of their time. You reading this review right now are a product of your time, why shouldn’t Vonnegut be one of his? “Bagombo Snuff Box” ends with a short nonfiction essay that Vonnegut wrote about the Midwest for an Indianapolis magazine in 1999. It aptly demonstrates what I admire and love about him. Being an Ohio boy I am proud Vonnegut’s work was so firmly rooted in the ethos of Midwestern culture. This collection is not good as an introduction to Mr. Vonnegut, but if you have read some of his stronger works and like what you have seen, you should pick this one up too.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    I guess Vonnegut is known mostly for his novels, but I've always been a big fan of his short fiction. No one else seems to pack such vitality into so few pages, and this collection really highlights his versatility. Some of the stories are humorous - a realtor learns a thing or two from some prospective buyers, a town comes to regret embracing an efficiency expert, and a mob Santa Claus receives a special present. And some are bittersweet - a man attempts to pawn a wartime souvenir, a school ba I guess Vonnegut is known mostly for his novels, but I've always been a big fan of his short fiction. No one else seems to pack such vitality into so few pages, and this collection really highlights his versatility. Some of the stories are humorous - a realtor learns a thing or two from some prospective buyers, a town comes to regret embracing an efficiency expert, and a mob Santa Claus receives a special present. And some are bittersweet - a man attempts to pawn a wartime souvenir, a school band director learns there's more to life than winning competitions. Two of the standouts showcase Vonnegut's mastery of science fiction. In Thanasphere, the Air Force receives this message from their man in deep space: "A child," said the Major. "I hear a child crying. Don't you hear it?" That line still gives me goosebumps, and is as chilling as anything Stephen King ever wrote. 2BRO2B tells of a future world where old age, death, and disease have been conquered. And everything works out fine, until someone has a baby: "Triplets!" she said. She was exclaiming over the legal implications of triplets. The law said that no newborn child could survive unless the parents of the child could find someone who would volunteer to die. Triplets, if they were all to live, called for three volunteers. Vonnegut provides a wonderful introduction to the book, waxing nostalgic about the early 1950s and the heyday of the short story. There was a crazy seller's market for short stories in 1950. There were four weekly magazines that published three or more of the things in every issue. Six monthlies did the same. That seems almost unimaginable today. Short stories are still out there. It's harder to find them these days. But it's definitely worth the effort. There are on many campuses, moreover, local papers, weeklies or monthlies, that publish short stories but cannot pay for them. What the heck, practicing an art isn't a way to earn money. It's a way to make one's soul grow.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patdmac7

    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 ord 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 worls, 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. I might as well settle here as anywhere, since I haven't very strong reasons for living in any particular part of the country. 54 Why don't you say, 'I am going to build a life for myself, for my time, and make it a work of art'? ... Design your life like that Finnish carafe over there clean, harmonious, alive with the cool, tart soul of truth in our time. 112 As he walked up to Amy's small, ordinary house, he managed a smile of sad maturity, the smile of a man who has hurt and been hurt, who has seen everything, who has learned a great deal from it all, and who, incidentally, has made a lot of money along the way. 139 He was being asked to match his father's passion for the factory with an equal passion for something else. And Franklin had no such passion-for the theater or anything else. He had nothing but the bittersweet, almost formless longings of youth. 206 He wanted to cray about growing old, about the shabby ends brave young lovers came to. 224 One of the worst mistakes a person can makes, sometimes, I guess, is to try to get away from people and think. It's a great way to lose your forward motion. 238 From what I've seen of the rich people I grew up with, money just makes people worried and unhappy. People with a lot of money get so worried about how maybe they'll lose it, they forget to live. 254 If we should try to prove our love, Our love would be in danger. Let's put our love beyond all harm. Good-bye - sweet, gentle stranger. 257 The world could do with a good deal more mess, if you ask me. 262 I guess the world seems so upside down so often is that everybody figures he's doing things on account of somebody else. 279 Housewifery is a swindle, if a woman can do more. 279 Women are awful bluffers sometimes. 279 What (creative writing) students wanted and got, and what so many of their children are getting, was a cheap way to externalize what was inside them, to see in black-and-white who they were and what they might become. 290

  6. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    A collection of Vonnegut's earliest work for '50s/60s periodicals. As the Master himself points out in the marvellous introduction, these are embryonic stories, stylistically clumsy and written purely for financial gain. This doesn't make the work any less playful and Vonnegutian, though the bulk of these stories have a more moralistic feel to them, and only shades of the postmodern hilarity he would become known for is evident throughout. Thanasphere and 2BRO2B are the only sci-fi entries. The r A collection of Vonnegut's earliest work for '50s/60s periodicals. As the Master himself points out in the marvellous introduction, these are embryonic stories, stylistically clumsy and written purely for financial gain. This doesn't make the work any less playful and Vonnegutian, though the bulk of these stories have a more moralistic feel to them, and only shades of the postmodern hilarity he would become known for is evident throughout. Thanasphere and 2BRO2B are the only sci-fi entries. The rest deal with the aspirations of poor blue-collar characters and have an incomplete, drab feel (redeemed in part by Vonnegut's humourous dialogue). Runaways is a standout -- a hilarious inversion of the teenage love story. For Vonnegut die-hards only!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    For Kurt Vonnegut, I did not care for these stories. I know he got his start in science fiction, but maybe it’s my reluctance to love short stories? I love everything Papa Kurt has written, but this just didn’t do it for me. I’m really disappointed about it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hrishabh Chaudhary

    What a surely, purely, coincidentally, appropriate title! I say this, because this book is nothing short of a snuff box for a Vonnegut fan and that is how I have been using it for past 2 weeks. One or two stories a day to make my troubles drop away. The book contains 23 wonderful stories, accompanied by a brilliant preface by Peter Reed ( author of at least 4 books on Vonnegut and his works) and an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut himself, which contains his eight rules for creative writing, out of w What a surely, purely, coincidentally, appropriate title! I say this, because this book is nothing short of a snuff box for a Vonnegut fan and that is how I have been using it for past 2 weeks. One or two stories a day to make my troubles drop away. The book contains 23 wonderful stories, accompanied by a brilliant preface by Peter Reed ( author of at least 4 books on Vonnegut and his works) and an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut himself, which contains his eight rules for creative writing, out of which most important is, Rule No. 1: Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. And Vonnegut never breaks this rule in any of his stories. The stories in this collection are from early stage of Kurt Vonnegut’s career and were written to support his family. In these stories he honed his skill and worked on themes which were to be further developed and featured in his later, more popular works. Themes like pretense, father-son relation, limitations of science, and confusion of war. Kurt Vonnegut writes about these stories- As fossils, they are fakes on the order of Piltdown Man, half human being, half the orangutan I used to be. Short stories can have greatness, short as they have to be. But there is no greatness in this or my other collection, nor was there meant to be. I am not learned enough to vouch for greatness, but they surely do have style. Style is evident from the outset of this book. Even before the Table of Contents! Just go through this epigraph, my sir/madam: As in my other works of fiction: All persons living and dead are purely coincidental, and should not be construed. No names have been changed in order to protect the innocent. Angels protect the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine. More style (at a shooting game): Not giving a damn, he had come to be at one with the universe. With brainless harmony like that, he’d found that he couldn’t miss. More style (with more humor): “I can’t help taking an interest,” said Cady."It causes me actual physical pain to see things done the wrong way, when it’s so easy to do them the right way. Oops! Moved your right thumb back to where I told you not to put it!” “Chief Atkins,” whispered Upton Beaton in the meeting hall. “Eh?” “Don’t you scratch your head like that,” said Beaton."Spread your fingers like this, see? Then dig in. Cover twice as much scalp in half the time.” Recommended for everyone!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    I don't care if you ever read this book, and in fact, though I know I did (and apparently gave it three stars several years ago), I don't remember anything from it except for the intro. Please allow me to reproduce a small chunk of that here: Kurt Vonnegut's 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 o I don't care if you ever read this book, and in fact, though I know I did (and apparently gave it three stars several years ago), I don't remember anything from it except for the intro. Please allow me to reproduce a small chunk of that here: Kurt Vonnegut's 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 character 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. After this, Vonnegut talks about how his "one reader" is his sister Allie, who "is up in Heaven now." He then says this (which, if you have a sister, or even just a heart, will make you immediately tear up): "The boundaries to the playing fields of my short stories, and my novels, too, were once the boundaries of the soul of my only sister. She lives on that way." Sob!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    This book is a collection of some of Vonnegut's earliest short stories, written for weekly and monthly magazines. They're interesting as a perspective on this era, when "serious" literary authors, or at least burgeoning ones, wrote for magazines, as well as writing full-length novels. They're also an interesting look into Vonnegut's earliest writing style (although he admits in a postscript that he could not help editing the ending of many of the chapters). That being said, they're not as enjoya This book is a collection of some of Vonnegut's earliest short stories, written for weekly and monthly magazines. They're interesting as a perspective on this era, when "serious" literary authors, or at least burgeoning ones, wrote for magazines, as well as writing full-length novels. They're also an interesting look into Vonnegut's earliest writing style (although he admits in a postscript that he could not help editing the ending of many of the chapters). That being said, they're not as enjoyable as Vonnegut's books. His signature style (choppy sentences, conversational tone, a satire comprised of almost humourous yet mournful exasperation) has not really come into itself here. The purpose of these stories is also very different from his full-length books. They are meant to entertain (Vonnegut's introduction is instructive, I think, when he talks of the central tenets of writing that he taught in his creative writing course. One of these is that the audience should be able to expect what will happen next, because the plot is logical and the characters understandable. This concept was applied here, yielding stories whose endings could often be guessed at the very outset.). I think "2B402B" was the most indicative of Vonnegut's later style. However, Vonnegut does succeed at his primary objective here--entertaining. They are quick, enjoyable reads that are good for the subway commute.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Landon Beeson

    This is a collection of short stories that are all kind of... well... boring except for one, which is absolutely incredible. That story is called 2BRO2B. This story is a crazy futuristic dystopian society that turns out so creepy it rocks! You could probably find this story without buying the whole book. It would be worth your time to skip the others. They are okay, but nothing special.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vishal

    An interesting and varied - if at times a bit dry - collection of Vonnegut's stories, where he sets out to do his favourite thing; get the reader to reset their moral compass, take off the mask of pretension and find themselves. As he describes himself, writing is the process of making one's soul grow and that aim comes through here. An interesting and varied - if at times a bit dry - collection of Vonnegut's stories, where he sets out to do his favourite thing; get the reader to reset their moral compass, take off the mask of pretension and find themselves. As he describes himself, writing is the process of making one's soul grow and that aim comes through here.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra: A pioneering astronaut hears voices in outer space. Kurt Vonnegut reflects on mortality and the Cold War. Read by Kerry Shale. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007jqzb From BBC Radio 4 Extra: A pioneering astronaut hears voices in outer space. Kurt Vonnegut reflects on mortality and the Cold War. Read by Kerry Shale. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007jqzb

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Dietzel

    I much preferred Vonnegut's other short story collection (Welcome to the Monkey House. This collection comprises his earliest fiction, when he was first learning how to tell stories and before he wrote the novels that made him famous. Missing from the stories are Vonnegut's overly cynical nature and his incredibly sarcastic delivery and humor (i.e., what made Vonnegut popular). I found this collection fascinating because it was like taking a peak into the author's early career and that gave me a I much preferred Vonnegut's other short story collection (Welcome to the Monkey House. This collection comprises his earliest fiction, when he was first learning how to tell stories and before he wrote the novels that made him famous. Missing from the stories are Vonnegut's overly cynical nature and his incredibly sarcastic delivery and humor (i.e., what made Vonnegut popular). I found this collection fascinating because it was like taking a peak into the author's early career and that gave me a sense of where he started off compared to where he ended up with classics like Slaughterhouse-Five, but unless you're a huge Vonnegut fan, as I am, I'd read his other stories and pass on this set.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Olga Godim

    Although this book was compiled in 1999, it contains the author’s early short stories, published in magazines in the 1950s and ’60s. It was not an easy or a fast book to read but it was powerful and it made an impression. I won’t re-read it; it didn’t give me much pleasure, which is why 4 stars instead of 5 stars, but I’ll remember it. The stories are all about a small man in America. A couple stories have a scifi slant, but their speculative flavor is unimportant. The spotlight in all the stori Although this book was compiled in 1999, it contains the author’s early short stories, published in magazines in the 1950s and ’60s. It was not an easy or a fast book to read but it was powerful and it made an impression. I won’t re-read it; it didn’t give me much pleasure, which is why 4 stars instead of 5 stars, but I’ll remember it. The stories are all about a small man in America. A couple stories have a scifi slant, but their speculative flavor is unimportant. The spotlight in all the stories is on a real man in the real postwar USA. No stories deal with a female protagonist, and most males on display are so life-like and pathetic, it hurts to read about them. Literary recognition is seldom pretty. All the human foibles – greed, vanity, ambition, envy, misplaced loyalties – and all the vulnerabilities – loneliness, ignorance, shyness – are bared to the readers. There are no heroes or villains in this book but lots of silly men, misunderstood men, and presumptuous men. Some want to pay the world for ignoring them. Others are resigned to their fate, which is much, much smaller than they had dreamed about. ‘The shattered dreams of America’ could be a subtitle for this book, which includes stories sad and funny, tragic and twisted, but beyond all, believable. It could’ve been me (well, not me, I’m a woman). It could’ve been you or your cousin or your classmate. It’s about us. And we are as different as the heroes of these stories. Some of them are extremely narrow-minded but come to realize and regret their own pettiness. Others are absorbed in their work to the detriment of the living people around them. Still others are making mistakes but not making connections. The theme of misunderstanding – between fathers and sons, wives and husbands, teachers and students – runs through the stories like a binding thread. I made a conscious decision not to comment on any particular story, but I’d like to mention one character, a high school music teacher. He appears in three stories and he is probably the most likable of the protagonists in this book, at least for me. His passion for music is rich and rewarding, but his blindness to the human needs of his students is appalling. He is made of contradictions, like all the other characters in the book. The introduction by the author is just as fascinating as the stories. In it, he talks about the origins of this collection, about his checkered life and literary career, and about the present times (1999) which was so different and so similar to the times he wrote about. He writes about Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 was published before we and most of our neighbors in Osterville owned TVs. Ray Bradbury himself may not have owned one. He still may not own one. To this day, Ray can’t drive a car and hates to ride in airplanes. In any case, Ray was sure as heck prescient. Just as people with dysfunctional kidneys are getting perfect ones from hospitals nowadays, Americans with dysfunctional social lives, like the woman in Ray’s book, are getting perfect friends and relatives from their TV sets. And around the clock! Ray missed the boat about how many screens would be required for a successful people-transplant. One lousy little Sony can do the job, night and day. All it takes besides that is actors and actresses, telling the news, selling stuff, in soap operas or whatever, who treat whoever is watching, even if nobody is watching, like family. “Hell is other people,” said Jean-Paul Sartre. “Hell is other real people,’ is what he should have said. What a pessimistic outlook at our lives. And so close to home, I want to curse. Vonnegut also gives here, in the introduction to this book, his famous 8 rules of writing fiction: 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. He also admits that most good writers break most of his rules, except maybe the rule #1. This book didn’t break that rule. One critic called Vonnegut “the Mark Twain of our times.” I agree.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Larry Santoro, a GoodReads author, gave this book as a Christmas present during the period when I and others would go to his home almost weekly to watch videos from his enormous movie collection. It is early Vonnegut and definitely not his best, but if you like the man as the writer he became, then it's probably worth reading. Larry Santoro, a GoodReads author, gave this book as a Christmas present during the period when I and others would go to his home almost weekly to watch videos from his enormous movie collection. It is early Vonnegut and definitely not his best, but if you like the man as the writer he became, then it's probably worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lukasz Pruski

    "My longtime friend and critic Professor Peter Reed, of the English Department at the University of Minnesota, made it his business to find these stories from my distant past. Otherwise, they might never have seen the light of day again. I myself hadn't saved one scrap of paper from that part of my life." (Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in the Introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box.) I am not sure that the collection of early short stories Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of my favorite authors, should h "My longtime friend and critic Professor Peter Reed, of the English Department at the University of Minnesota, made it his business to find these stories from my distant past. Otherwise, they might never have seen the light of day again. I myself hadn't saved one scrap of paper from that part of my life." (Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in the Introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box.) I am not sure that the collection of early short stories Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of my favorite authors, should have been published. I suspect that the publisher's eagerness to make a buck off the great author's name may be more to blame than Dr. Reed's zeal. Mr. Vonnegut himself seems to be aware of literary weakness of the stories: he writes in the Coda: "Rereading [some of the stories] so upset me, because the premise and the characters of each were so promising, and the denouement so asinine, that I virtually rewrote the denouement before I could stop myself." Further in the Coda the author is even more critical of these early stories that date back to the 1950s when they were published in such magazines as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Argosy, Redbook . Most of the 23 stories collected here are completely unremarkable and instantly forgettable. They are overtly and overly didactic, aimed at readers with teenager-like worldview, and just plain sophomoric. The endings, clearly meant to be "surprising", are quite predictable. The weakest story, A Night for Love is trite and unbelievably syrupy. This Son of Mine aims at psychological depth yet what we receive is a maudlin, sentimental mess. And this mess comes from my beloved author of Slaughterhouse-Five ! Some stories in the set are a little better. Souvenir rings true as it is based on Mr. Vonnegut's experiences as a prisoner of war in Germany, yet it is marred by atrociously cheap ending. A Present for Big Saint Nick is partially redeemed by being just nasty enough at the end. The only story that I like is Der Arme Dolmetscher, again referring to the author's war experience, but maybe I like it just because of the phrase "Where are your howitzers?" (Vo zint eara pantzer shpitzen?), which reminds me of Monty Python's Hungarian Tobacconist's Sketch. Dr. Reed points out two interesting aspects in his Preface: the stories feel quite dated because the women play secondary roles in all of them and the men are completely defined by jobs they have. Well, these observations are way more interesting than the stories themselves. Also, to be clear, my one-star rating is relative: what merits one star for Mr. Vonnegut, would bring a much higher rating in the case of a less talented author. This set of stories ranks nowhere near even the weakest entries in Vonnegut's literary output, such as, say, Deadeye Dick or Mother Night . To compare it with the author's great books such as Bluebeard or Breakfast of Champions is absurd, not even mentioning his masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five . One and a half stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey

    Before I begin, let me say that Vonnegut is one of my favorite American novelists of the 20th century. GALAPAGOS holds a special place in my heart to this day. I AM A FAN. This collection opens with a preface by the author wondering why anyone would want to amass his early works in one book. It's common for writers to semi-apologize for their earliest pieces. Sometimes this comes from a place of humility. Other times it's just the truth. In this case, Vonnegut is telling the truth. Get two stori Before I begin, let me say that Vonnegut is one of my favorite American novelists of the 20th century. GALAPAGOS holds a special place in my heart to this day. I AM A FAN. This collection opens with a preface by the author wondering why anyone would want to amass his early works in one book. It's common for writers to semi-apologize for their earliest pieces. Sometimes this comes from a place of humility. Other times it's just the truth. In this case, Vonnegut is telling the truth. Get two stories in and you can tell that he was in his writing infancy. Most of the stories were roughly written, trite, and/or moralistic. I actually rolled my eyes at the end of one. That said, there were a handful of stories that I enjoyed, especially the first piece. (Gotta love ghosts in space.) What kept me intrigued was having access to the ground floor of such a celebrated literary career. With hindsight on my side, I got to explore this collection with an eye for what would later become tell-tale Vonnegut styles, themes, and character quirks. I wouldn't recommend this book for entertainment as much as for insight into the writer Vonnegut would become. If nothing else, do it for the space ghosts.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Raz

    This is a collection of 23 short stories published in 1999. It contains all of Vonnegut's stories which were originally published in US periodicals in the 50s and 60s, and were not already collected in the 1968 Welcome to the Monkey House. One might think that this means they are second grade, and at least in some sense this is factually the case. The 1968 collection probably included the stories which the author (or the editor) thought were better. In fact Vonnegut himself felt the quality of t This is a collection of 23 short stories published in 1999. It contains all of Vonnegut's stories which were originally published in US periodicals in the 50s and 60s, and were not already collected in the 1968 Welcome to the Monkey House. One might think that this means they are second grade, and at least in some sense this is factually the case. The 1968 collection probably included the stories which the author (or the editor) thought were better. In fact Vonnegut himself felt the quality of three of these stories was inadequate, and he rewrote the ending. There is also always the question of how well a story ages, now that we are 70 years after some of these stories were told. Some did not age well at all, while some remain quite current. Having said all that, I think this is a valuable collection in two ways. First, I'm sure people who are interested in the growth of an artist will find it quite revealing. Second, while some of the stories were barely readable, and as I said above, some did not age well, I'm sure almost every short-story lover will fine the one or two stories in this book that will speak to them personally, which shows the Vonnegut always knew his way around the human spirit. I rate it three stars out of five.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    A few of the stories in this collection are brilliant, such as "The Powder Blue Dragon," about a reckless youth with a fast car, or "Thanasphere," a sci-fi horror about a cloud in which ghosts communicate with the living. Most of the other stories at least had interesting parts, such as "A Present for Big Saint Nick" or "Souvenir." The short story is a very specific and difficult art to do well; still, more often than not, Vonnegut succeeds in creating something unique and entertaining. His dry- A few of the stories in this collection are brilliant, such as "The Powder Blue Dragon," about a reckless youth with a fast car, or "Thanasphere," a sci-fi horror about a cloud in which ghosts communicate with the living. Most of the other stories at least had interesting parts, such as "A Present for Big Saint Nick" or "Souvenir." The short story is a very specific and difficult art to do well; still, more often than not, Vonnegut succeeds in creating something unique and entertaining. His dry-witty style resonates clearly with the 10-15 page style. I was disappointed with the author's note at the end of the collection, in which Vonnegut jokes about wishing Indiana could trade Gary for Akron, Ohio. I'm sort of bummed that he hated on the region. That being said, I would probably hate on the region too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    James Kirby

    Again, Kurt Vonnegut has proven his short-story prowess. Not every tale here is a winner, but there were enough to justify the read. I'd be interested to discuss the compilation with others who have read it, to compare which ones stuck with folks. Personally, I'm still contemplating Powder Blue Dragon, Lover's Anonymous, The Runaways, and of course 2BR02B (which I'm sure I read elsewhere first). Again, Kurt Vonnegut has proven his short-story prowess. Not every tale here is a winner, but there were enough to justify the read. I'd be interested to discuss the compilation with others who have read it, to compare which ones stuck with folks. Personally, I'm still contemplating Powder Blue Dragon, Lover's Anonymous, The Runaways, and of course 2BR02B (which I'm sure I read elsewhere first).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    There are a couple of gems in here that provide a glimpse into the early stirrings of the style Vonnegut would come to develop, but this collection is ultimately made up of stories written by a yet unknown novelist while he was still learning the craft and sold to magazine periodicals with the goal of simply making just enough money to put food on the table. Still worth the read if you're a Vonnegut fan. There are a couple of gems in here that provide a glimpse into the early stirrings of the style Vonnegut would come to develop, but this collection is ultimately made up of stories written by a yet unknown novelist while he was still learning the craft and sold to magazine periodicals with the goal of simply making just enough money to put food on the table. Still worth the read if you're a Vonnegut fan.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark Cofta

    Early Vonnegut, but undeniably the writer who you either love or you don't. The book is especially valuable for its introduction by Vonnegut, which includes his "8 Rules for Writing," and his observations about how the mainstream magazines of the 1950s were his training ground, back when magazines published fiction. I read it in conjunction with Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell. Early Vonnegut, but undeniably the writer who you either love or you don't. The book is especially valuable for its introduction by Vonnegut, which includes his "8 Rules for Writing," and his observations about how the mainstream magazines of the 1950s were his training ground, back when magazines published fiction. I read it in conjunction with Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Abby Carlson

    There’s something about Vonnegut’s writings about Midwestern America, manufacturing towns, and specifically Indianapolis that feel really right. I never get tired of it. The short stories definitely sound like young Vonnegut, and don’t have quite the punch of some of his classics. But good nonetheless.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kosar

    The typical Vonnegut-dear, yet a little more positive. Most of the stories lead to a happy ending, leaving us with the conclusion that goodness always wins. I liked the attitude, though. I love to think that if Vonnegut believes the world is a nice place to live in, well then that's how it is. The typical Vonnegut-dear, yet a little more positive. Most of the stories lead to a happy ending, leaving us with the conclusion that goodness always wins. I liked the attitude, though. I love to think that if Vonnegut believes the world is a nice place to live in, well then that's how it is.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Plants

    2.5 stars. 2BRO2B was amazing but the rest of the stories were pretty dull... I felt like I dragged my body through the book. Or maybe I just don’t appreciate Vonnegut like I did when I was younger... I’m not sure...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ix Tab

    Vonnegut is the master of short forms. Short stories can have a greatness, if they're short enough and great enough in their shortness. "Bagombo Snuff Box" is an assortment of short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut. All of them was initially published in the 1950-60s, but they didn't appear in Vonnegut's previous collection, "Welcome to the Monkey House". I was really glad to see this new anthology. In the foreword, author says: "While I am reading [a short story], my pulse and breathing slow do Vonnegut is the master of short forms. Short stories can have a greatness, if they're short enough and great enough in their shortness. "Bagombo Snuff Box" is an assortment of short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut. All of them was initially published in the 1950-60s, but they didn't appear in Vonnegut's previous collection, "Welcome to the Monkey House". I was really glad to see this new anthology. In the foreword, author says: "While I am reading [a short story], my pulse and breathing slow down. My high school troubles drop away. I am in a pleasant state somewhere between sleep and restfulness". I feel exactly the same while I am reading "Bagombo Snuff Box". Of course, typically for all collections, there are some stories that I find... average. I didn't like ALL of the stories. It's impossible to like everything. I almost turned a deaf ear to "The Son of Mine", "A Night for Love", "Runaways" and "Lovers Anonymous" - well, they were great, but maybe a little bit too common and predictable. I mean I felt bored for a while. But there is a possibility that I just did not understood them. Anyway, I won't ever be able to write such stories like even the worse of Vonnegut's things, so yes, the book was amazing. The best of "Bagombo Snuff Box" is undoubtedly "2BR02B" (pronounced "2 B R naught 2 B", referencing the phrase from Shakespeare's "Hamlet"), first published in January 1962 in the digest magazine World of If Science Fiction. It's the amazing science fiction story about the society in which people cannot age or die in a natural way, because these "diseases" are finally cured; but because of that, some indeterminate authorities are controlling the number of population in the US; the limit is 40 milion, and in order for someone to be born, someone must first volunteer to die. To get killed, you know. Voluntarily leave the planet. The plot starts when we meet a man, waiting in a room at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital. Edward K. Wehling's wife is about to give him triplets. He doesn't have three volunteers. Wehling has to do something very quickly, if he wants her children to be born. The story is disturbing, full of anxiety and despair and it tugs at reader's heartstrings by touching on the matter of human existence, his death, his health and birth. I felt moved, but scaried at the same time. Vonnegut cuts me to the quick in his stories, touching upon the questions I'm scared of or fascinated by, and even if I don't understand or feel a little bored, I love all of "Bagombo Snuff Box" and I give 5 stars for his undeniable gift.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I love a good short story, and Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers. I remember reading "Welcome to the Monkeyhouse" the first time and just loving the stories. He was able to get so much across in just a pages. I have gone back and read that collection a few times since and the stories are just as good now as they were back then. Hell, I even got one of my sons to read (and enjoy) the stories. It has been a while since I read anything by Vonnegut, but one quickly recognizes his voice/wri I love a good short story, and Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers. I remember reading "Welcome to the Monkeyhouse" the first time and just loving the stories. He was able to get so much across in just a pages. I have gone back and read that collection a few times since and the stories are just as good now as they were back then. Hell, I even got one of my sons to read (and enjoy) the stories. It has been a while since I read anything by Vonnegut, but one quickly recognizes his voice/writing style when you read the stories within this collection. Overall, "Monkeyhouse" is more consistently impressive in it's stories, but there are some in this collection which can stand with those stories. "Thanasphere" & "2BR02B" are classic Vonnegut sci-fi/futuristic stories. The first telling the story of a astronaut who can here the voices of the dead. The second story of a future with population cap and the willingness of people to volunteer to end their lives with the Federal Bureau of Termination. There are also the classic Vonnegut love stories.."Runaways", "Lovers Anonymous", "A Night for Love", "Custom-Made Bride" (to name a few). Like other stories, his vision of love and relationships have a twist. In "Runaways" two teenagers run away from home (hence the name) and are brought back by their parents and reprimanded for wanting to be together. Only after attempting to run away again and their parents acceptance of their relationship does the young couple decide that they are not ready for the relationship; they are too young. As I stated earlier, the stories in this collection are not as consistent as they are in "Monkeyhouse", but it is definitely worth a read for the Vonnegut fan, or anyone who enjoys the ancient art of a good short story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    Oh dear. Vonnegut is one of the writers I have often said is "among my favourites" and it's true that I regard The Sirens of Titan as probably the best science fiction novel of the 1950s, and Cat's Cradle as possibly the best science fiction novel of the 1960s. I also happen to have enjoyed many of his short stories. But this collection isn't especially good. Yes, there are three good stories among the 23; and of those 3, one is superb. The superb story is '2BR02B', which is far ahead of the pack Oh dear. Vonnegut is one of the writers I have often said is "among my favourites" and it's true that I regard The Sirens of Titan as probably the best science fiction novel of the 1950s, and Cat's Cradle as possibly the best science fiction novel of the 1960s. I also happen to have enjoyed many of his short stories. But this collection isn't especially good. Yes, there are three good stories among the 23; and of those 3, one is superb. The superb story is '2BR02B', which is far ahead of the pack. It's a classic Vonnegutian SF satire, just a few pages long but magnificent in every way. The other two good stories are 'Thanasphere' and 'A Present for Big Saint Nick' (which initially I assumed was going to be another clunker, but it's totally redeemed by its ending). As can be seen, two of these three are SF, the only science fiction stories in this book. Vonnegut hated to be called a science fiction writer, but I have come to the conclusion that he was only really very good when he was writing science fiction. Ah well! Many of the stories are dreadful. 'Hal Irwin's Magic Lamp' is perhaps the worst of the bunch. It's a story that appeared in Vonnegut's first collection Canary in a Cathouse (now difficult to obtain) and is the only story from that collection not to be included in his later (and good) collection, Welcome to the Monkey House. It seems that Vonnegut was well-aware even back in the 1960s of what a bad story this is. And yet it is typical of the quality of much of the other work in this present collection. Ultimately, a disappointing book. I am giving it three stars because of my fond memories of how I enjoyed Vonnegut's work in the past. It probably only deserves two stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alan Perry

    I picked this book up at the beginning of the year. Having read Timequake a while back, I thought it was about time I read some more of Vonneguts work, this seemed to be a good place to start. A great collection of all his early short stories which had been published in various American literary magazines over the years, it's a wonderful insight into his beginnings of a novelist. The detail of emotion and feeling which he puts into the many personalities in the book leaves you with no doubt that I picked this book up at the beginning of the year. Having read Timequake a while back, I thought it was about time I read some more of Vonneguts work, this seemed to be a good place to start. A great collection of all his early short stories which had been published in various American literary magazines over the years, it's a wonderful insight into his beginnings of a novelist. The detail of emotion and feeling which he puts into the many personalities in the book leaves you with no doubt that not only is he a fantastic observer of the human character, but that there is a lot of himself in each of them. The anthological nature of Snuff Box also allows for easy occasional reading. Ironically, Vonnegut died in April just as I was finishing the book.

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