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9781598875546

Bagombo Snuff Box

Vonnegut, Kurt

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This is vintage Vonnegut: short stories never-before collected or published in book form. They are from the era of the Golden Age of magazines: a pre-television time when publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Argosy, and others reigned supreme as Americans' entertainment choice.

Before that Golden Age drew to a close half a century ago, a young PR man at General Electric sold his first short story to one of the publications. By the time he'd sold his third, Vonnegut quit GE to join the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner to write short stories at fifteen-hundred dollars a piece.

Vonnegut himself has selected the best of these early stories for this audio collection, and has written a new preface and afterword for the occasion. Now listeners can relive the genesis of the master. Stories such as "Cruise of the Jolly Roger," "The Powder Blue Dragon," "Hal Irwin's Magic Lamp," and "Bagombo Snuff Box" return us to the beginning of a literary voice that's sure to endure forever. Bagombo Snuff Box, the missing pieces of the master's collection, is a ready-made classic for Vonnegut fans new and old.

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Review:

From out of the blue, here's a new collection of Vonnegut fiction--his first magazine stories from the 1950s in book form at last, with some charming reminiscences (and three new endings for old stories) by the author. Vonnegut says these tales were meant to be as evanescent as lightening bugs, and that image captures their frail magic. They're like time travelers from an epoch when stories swarmed in mass-market magazines, before TV dawned and doomed them.

Later greatness glimmers here: the offbeat sci-fi of "Thanasphere" (in which an astronaut encounters dead souls in space) and the hero's bogus adventures in alien lands in "Bagombo Snuff Box" look forward to Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, as do the war stories "Souvenir," "Der Arme Dolmetscher," and "The Cruise of The Jolly Roger," which incorporate and amplify Vonnegut's actual war experiences. There's authentic midcentury news here, even in the gentle Saturday Evening Post social satire of "The No-Talent Kid," "Ambitious Sophomore," and "The Boy Who Hated Girls," which pretty much nail the high-school marching band experience. The pieces are peppered with odd, true observations and neat little turns of phrase: one incompetent kid in Lincoln High's band marches "flappingly, like a mother flamingo pretending to be injured, luring alligators from her nest."

You can't miss the ironic humor and the humane, death-haunted melancholy of the young war veteran and tyro writer. This collection beats his first novel, Player Piano, and anticipates the masterpiece Cat's Cradle, whose tiny chapters resemble short stories. Young Vonnegut is derivative, mostly of Saki and O. Henry, partly because he couldn't think of endings, and their switcheroos offered a handy model. But from the start, Vonnegut's idiosyncratic voice is unmistakable. --Tim Appelo

From the Back Cover:

In the 1950s and early 1960s, before television reigned preeminent, Kurt Vonnegut's short stories appeared frequently in popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and Argosy. Filled with unforgettable characters, humor and satire, these stories offer a rare glimpse into a developing master of fiction. Vonnegut himself selected the best of his early stories for this audio release, including "Thanasphere," "Souvenir," "Bagombo Snuff Box," "The Boy Who Hated Girls," "Lovers Anonymous," and more.

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