If you thought you had read everything Kurt Vonnegut ever published, you’ve got another think coming. While Mortals Sleep is a new short story collection from Vonnegut - who, of course, has been dead for a few years now. What this book collects is a group of stories from the writer’s youth that were never published; they were either never submitted to magazines or were rejected.
So yeah, this is the ephemera of Vonnegut’s career, but for the serious devotee of the greatest writer of the second half the 20th century, this is exciting stuff. The new book has a forward by Dave Eggers and collects stories that foreshadow Vonnegut’s coming career as a science fiction and satire genius, as well as a world-class cynic.
Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly description:
The 16 previously unpublished short stories of this collection, taken from the beginning of Vonnegut’s career, show a young author already grappling with themes and ideas that would define his work for decades to come. “Girl Pool” features typist Amy Lou Little, employee of the Kafkaesque Montezuma Forge and Foundry Company, who is tasked with transcribing a plea for help she receives on her Dictaphone from an escaped, dying murderer hiding somewhere in the works of the company’s cavernous factory. The tale reveals Vonnegut investigating one of his recurring themes: the isolation brought by technology and the necessity for basic humanity in the workplace. The title story melds a sentimental meditation on the true meaning of Christmas with elements of the mystery genre as a hard-nosed reporter stalks the story of stolen nativity scene characters. While these early stories show an author still testing the boundaries of his craft and obsessions, Vonnegut’s acute moral sense and knack for compelling prose are very much on display. In the foreword, Dave Eggers calls Vonnegut “a hippie Mark Twain,” which perfectly captures an essential truth about this esteemed author.
Can’t wait to read this.