While Mortals Sleep: Book summary and reviews of While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut

While Mortals Sleep

Unpublished Short Fiction

by Kurt Vonnegut

While Mortals Sleep

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Book Summary

Smart, whimsical, and often scathing, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut influenced a generation of American writers - including Dave Eggers, author of this volume's Foreword. In these previously unpublished gems, Vonnegut's originality infuses a unique landscape of factories, trailers, and bars - and characters who pit their dreams and fears against a cruel and sometimes comically indifferent world.

Here are stories of men and machines, art and artifice, and how ideals of fortune, fame, and love take curious twists in ordinary lives. An ambitious builder of roads, commanding an army of bulldozers, graders, and asphalt spreaders, fritters away his free time with miniature trains - until the women in his life crash his fantasy land. Trapped in a stenography pool, a young dreamer receives a call from a robber on the run, who presents her with a strange proposition. A crusty newspaperman is forced onto a committee to judge Christmas displays - a job that leads him to a suspiciously ostentatious ex-con and then a miracle. A hog farmer’s widow receives cryptic, unsolicited letters from a man in Schenectady about “the indefinable sweet aches of the spirit.” But what will she find when she goes to meet him in the flesh?

These beautifully rendered works are a testament to Vonnegut's unique blend of observation and imagination. Like a present left behind by a departed loved one, While Mortals Sleep bestows upon us a shimmering Kurt Vonnegut gift: a poignant reflection of our world as it is and as it could be.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Tightly and crisply written...these stories, while clearly seminal, constitute a worthwhile contribution to the author’s oeuvre." - Booklist

"Though not adding significantly to Vonnegut's legacy, this is an appealing glimpse of a young writer learning his craft. It deserves an audience among general readers as well as Vonnegut completists." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Kurt Vonnegut Author Biography

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. He studied biochemistry at Cornell University (1940–2) before attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1943.  He served in the US Army from 1942-1945.  As an advance scout with the US 106th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge, Vonnegut was cut off from his battalion behind enemy lines and was eventually captured in December 1944 and held as a prisoner of war.  He was held in Dresden where he witnessed the February 1945 bombings that destroyed much of the city.  He was one of just seven American prisoners of war in Dresden to survive, in an underground meatpacking cellar known as "Slaughterhouse Five".  This experience formed the basis for his ...

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Name Pronunciation
Kurt Vonnegut: kert VAHN-uh-guht

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