Kurt Vonnegut, Sidney Offit con Novels & Stories 1963–1973: Cat’s Cradle / God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater / Slaughterhouse-Five / Breakfast of Champions / Stories
Like his idol Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut was a sly and skeptical Midwestern everyman outraged by the depravity of the damned human race. A consummate entertainer—few storytellers are as dependably funny—he was also a clear-eyed critic of American life. Among the targets of his ridicule were the exploiters, the despoilers, and the soulless parasitic moneymakers, but he reserved his hottest anger for that tribe of scientists and merchants of war who conjure up genies of mass destruction without a thought to what happens once they’re out of their bottles. Yet his works are remarkably free of villains, being rich instead in dangerous, not-quite-unlovable sinners who may yet be redeemed.
This volume, the first in a multi-volume edition of his enduring fiction, captures Vonnegut at the pyrotechnic height of his powers. It opens with Cat’s Cradle (1963), perhaps his most exhilarating performance, in which a would-be historian of the bombing of Hiroshima finds himself a privileged witness to the icy end of the world.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965) chronicles the alcoholic unraveling and spiritual rebirth of a good-hearted dreamer tormented by the question “What are people for?”
Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)—the book that earned Vonnegut worldwide fame, and one of the great antiwar novels in literature—is the jump-cutting saga of Billy Pilgrim, who, having come unstuck in time, is doomed to relive continually both the destruction of Dresden and his abduction by space aliens.
In a text enhanced by the author’s spirited line drawings, Breakfast of Champions (1973) describes the fateful meeting of a luckless science-fiction writer and an unhinged Pontiac dealer who disastrously believes that everyone but himself is a robot.
Rounding out the volume are three brilliant short stories—including the classic fantasy “Welcome to the Monkey House”—and moving autobiographical accounts of Vonnegut’s experience of war that shed light on events imaginatively treated in Slaughterhouse-Five.