03 March, 2011

Review - Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

I don't think my love of Kurt Vonnegut is a secret, I just can't get enough of that humor that also makes you cringe a little bit. Vonnegut does a wonderful job with a short story and while most stories in Welcome to the Monkey House [US] [UK] were "okay" to "yeah, I liked it I guess", it's definitely worth it for the few 4 to 5 star ratings. I thought a short review on Goodreads put it niceley:
If you think you don't like short stories, or that short stories can't deliver a satisfying read like a novel...
This is not quite true for the entire collection, at least for me, but many are very much worth your time. Not all are SciFi, but I've marked the ones that are and they are all definitely worth a read.

"Where I Live" (Venture- Traveler’s World, October 1964) - 2/5 Kinda boring start and no real plot. Don't worry, it gets better.

"Harrison Bergeron" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1961) - 5/5 Loved this one - science fiction - Handicapping people so everything is fair and no one can take unfair advantage because of their looks, intelligence, physical prowess, etc. Sad but true and hilarious at the same time - exactly what Vonnegut does best. It can also now be found in the new collection of Dystopian stories, Brave New Worlds [US] [UK].

"Who Am I This Time?" (The Saturday Evening Post, 16 December 1961) - 3/5 A play that I guess Vonnegut had to put on (Street Car Named Desire). I don't know if it's a true story or what, but it sounded autobiographical. Main actor who acts amazingly in everything and duddy female actor who he is able to bring out of her shell.

"Welcome to the Monkey House" (Playboy, January 1968) - 4/5 - Another science fiction story where the world is overpopulated and there exists a mandatory pill called "ethical birth control" that doesn't make it impossible to have children (the ethical part), but makes you numb from the waist down. Another sad but true, although I don't quite agree with the jab against religion in this one.

"Long Walk to Forever" (Ladies Home Journal, August 1960) - 3/5 A military man visits a woman he's in love with and who's about to get married.

"The Foster Portfolio" (Collier's Magazine, 8 September 1951) - 2/5 Nothing really exciting here. A financial consultant consults a man who's reasons for how he manages his money are more than they seem.

"Miss Temptation" (The Saturday Evening Post, April 21 1956) - 3/5 An actress struts her stuff, but is brought down for no reason she can help.

"All the King's Horses" (Collier's Magazine, 10 Feb 1951) - 5/5 A game of chess becomes a game of survival. Definitely one of the best of the collection.

"Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog" (Collier's Magazine, 14 March 1953) - 4/5 A funny story about a really annoying "me monster" (Brian Regen) who corners a man in the park.

"New Dictionary" (The New York Times, October 1966) - 3/5 Who hasn't looked up dirty words at one time in their life in the dictionary? :)

"Next Door" (Cosmopolitan, April 1955) -4/5 Pretty funny story about a kid who hears fighting next door and tries to help. Assume makes a what out of whom?

"More Stately Mansions" (Collier's Magazine, 22 December 1951) - 3/5 Quaint story about interior decorating and very atypical Vonnegut.

"The Hyannis Port Story" - 3/5 Secret Service calls a Commodore Rumfoord (a name that comes up a few times in Vonnegut's work) about his son. Rumfoord is not a big Kennedy fan.

"D.P." (Ladies Home Journal, August 1953) - 3/5 A kid in a prison camp meets his "father".

"Report on the Barnhouse Effect" (Collier's Magazine, 11 February 1950) - 3/5 - SciFi - Barnhouse is a scientist who discovers an interesting talent he has.

"The Euphio Question" (Collier's Magazine, 12 May 1951) - 4/5 - SciFi - An interesting discovery leads to "happiness" although it's more than you bargain for.

"Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son" (Ladies Home Journal, July 1962) - 3/5 A famous actress and her fifth husband have some work done on their bathroom.

"Deer in the Works" (Esquire, April 1955) - 3.5/5 An owner of a newspaper decides he needs something more secure and gets hired on at a large corporation. Say bye bye to your freedom.

"The Lie" (The Saturday Evening Post 24 February 1962) - 3.5/5 About a father's excitement for his son to enter boarding school.

"Unready to Wear" (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1953) - 4/5 - SciFi - Bodies are really just a pain in the neck aren't they?

"The Kid Nobody Could Handle" (The Saturday Evening Post, 24 September 1955) - 2/5 A boy who's been neglected all his life acts out. Actions speak louder than words.

"The Manned Missiles" (Cosmopolitan, July 1958) - 4/5 This was a really emotional tale about two astronauts' fathers writing each other whose sons recently died.

"EPICAC" (Collier's Magazine, 25 November 1950) - 4/5 - SciFi - Our narrator has a discussion with the smartest machine in the world.

"Adam" (Cosmopolitan, April 1954) - 3/5 - This one was definitely close to home for me, I have a seven month old. Babies are great.

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" aka "The Big Trip Up Yonder" (Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1954) - 4/5 - SciFi - Another story about overpopulation in the future. In this one, because of a new anti-aging drug, there are so many people, each family lives together for generations and there are no more resources.

3.5 out of 5 Stars


redhead said...

Welcome to the Monkey House is one of my favorite collections of short stories, thank you for talking about it! Like you, I can't get enough of Vonnegut. me thinks this is due for a re-read sometime soon. . .after I get thru the current stack o' books!

Bryce L. said...

So you mean never. For me that's what your last comment would mean at least. :D

I can definitely recommend a reread though.