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Authors: Kurt Vonnegut,Gregory D. Sumner

Welcome to the Monkey House: The Special Edition

BOOK: Welcome to the Monkey House: The Special Edition
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“UNIQUE … one of the writers who map our landscapes for us, who give names to the places we know best.”

The New York Times Book Review

“OUR FINEST BLACK-HUMORIST.… We laugh in self-defense.”

The Atlantic Monthly


Harper’s Magazine


The Charlotte Observer


Chicago Sun-Times


The New York Times

Welcome to the Monkey House
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

2014 Dial Press Trade Paperbacks eBook Edition

Copyright © 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968 by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. All rights reserved.

Unpublished drafts by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., copyright © 2014 by Trust U/W Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Donald C. Farber Trustee.

Additional text copyright © 2014 by Random House LLC.

Published in the United States by Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

and the H
colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

Originally published in hardcover in different form in the United States by Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, in 1968.

Acknowledgment is made to the following magazines and publishers in whose pages these stories first appeared:
The Atlantic Monthly:
“Der Arme Dolmetscher” (originally published under the title “Das Ganz Arm Dolmetscher”)
“The Foster Portfolio,” “All the King’s Horses,” “Tom Edison’s Shaggy Dog,” “More Stately Mansions,” “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” “Epicac,” and “The Euphio Question.”
“Next Door,” “The Manned Missiles,” and “Adam.”
“Deer in the Works.”
Fantasy and Science Fiction:
“Harrison Bergeron.”
Galaxy Publishing Corporation: “Unready to Wear” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” (originally published under the title “The Big Trip Up Yonder”).
Ladies’ Home Journal:
“Long Walk to Forever,” “D.P.,” and “Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son.”
The New York Times:
“New Dictionary” (originally published under the title “The Random House Dictionary”).
“Welcome to the Monkey House.”
The Saturday Evening Post:
“Who Am I This Time?,” “Miss Temptation,” “The Lie,” and “The Kid Nobody Could Handle.”
“Where I Live” (originally published under the title “So You’ve Never Been to Barnstable”).

ISBN 978-0-8129-9360-8
eBook ISBN 978-0-8129-9361-5

The Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Trust came into existence after the death of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and is committed to the continued protection of his works.

Cover design: Lynn Buckley
Cover illustration: Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and Andy Fry/Big Car
Hand-lettering: © 2007 Kurt Vonnegut/Origami Express, LLC/


“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”



, a retrospective exhibition of the shorter works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.—and Vonnegut is still very much with us, and I am still very much Vonnegut. Somewhere in Germany is a stream called the Vonne. That is the source of my curious name.

I have been a writer since 1949. I am self-taught. I have no theories about writing that might help others. When I write I simply become what I seemingly must become. I am six feet two and weigh nearly two hundred pounds and am badly coordinated, except when I swim. All that borrowed meat does the writing.

In the water I am beautiful.

·    ·    ·

My father and paternal grandfather were architects in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I was born. My maternal grandfather owned a brewery there. He won a Gold Medal at the Paris Exposition with his beer, which was Lieber Lager. The secret ingredient was coffee.

My only brother, eight years older than I, is a successful scientist. His special field is physics as it relates to clouds. His name is Bernard, and he is funnier than I am. I remember a letter he wrote after his first child, Peter, was born and brought home. “Here I am,” that letter began, “cleaning shit off of practically everything.”

My only sister, five years older than I, died when she was forty. She was over six feet tall, too, by an angstrom unit or so. She was heavenly to look at, and graceful, both in and out of water. She was a sculptress. She was christened “Alice,” but she used to deny that she was really an Alice. I agreed. Everybody agreed. Sometime in a dream maybe I will find out what her real name was.

Her dying words were, “No pain.” Those are good dying words. It was cancer that killed her.

And I realize now that the two main themes of my novels were stated by my siblings: “Here I am cleaning shit off of practically everything” and “No pain.” The contents of this book are samples of work I sold in order to finance the writing of the novels. Here one finds the fruits of Free Enterprise.

·    ·    ·

I used to be a public relations man for General Electric, and then I became a free-lance writer of so-called “slick fiction,” a lot of it science fiction. Whether I improved myself morally by making that change I am not prepared to say. That is one of the questions I mean to ask God on Judgment Day—along with the one about what my sister’s name really was.

That could easily be next Wednesday.

I have already put the question to a college professor, who, climbing down into his Mercedes-Benz 300SL
gran turismo
, assured me that public relations men and slick writers were equally vile, in that they both buggered truth for money.

I asked him what the very lowest grade of fiction was, and he told me, “Science fiction.” I asked where he was bound in such a rush, and learned that he had to catch a Fan-Jet. He was to speak at a meeting of the Modern Language Association in Honolulu the next morning. Honolulu was three thousand miles away.

·    ·    ·

My sister smoked too much. My father smoked too much. My mother smoked too much. I smoke too much. My brother used to smoke too much, and then he gave it up, which was a miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes.

And one time a pretty girl came up to me at a cocktail party, and she asked me, “What are you doing these days?”

“I am committing suicide by cigarette,” I replied.

She thought that was reasonably funny. I didn’t. I thought it was hideous that I should scorn life that much, sucking away on cancer sticks. My brand is Pall Mall. The authentic suicides ask for Pall Malls. The dilettantes ask for Pell Mells.

I have a relative who is secretly writing a history of parts of my family. He has showed me some of it, and he told me this about my grandfather, the architect: “He died in his forties—and I think he was just as glad to be out of it.” By “it,” of course, he meant life in Indianapolis—and there is that yellow streak about life in me, too.

The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.

·    ·    ·

It is disgraceful that I should ever have wanted out of “it,” and I don’t want out any more. I have six children, three of my own and three of my sister’s. They’ve turned out gloriously. My first marriage worked, and continues to work. My wife is still beautiful.

I never knew a writer’s wife who wasn’t beautiful.

In honor of the marriage that worked, I include in this collection a sickeningly slick love story from
The Ladies’ Home Journal
, God help us, entitled by them “The Long Walk to Forever.” The title I gave it, I think, was “Hell to Get Along With.”

It describes an afternoon I spent with my wife-to-be. Shame, shame, to have lived scenes from a woman’s magazine.

·    ·    ·

The New Yorker
once said that a book of mine,
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
, was “… a series of narcissistic giggles.” This may be another. Perhaps it would be helpful to the reader to imagine me as the White Rock girl, kneeling on a boulder in a nightgown, either looking for minnows or adoring her own reflection.


, an encyclopedia salesman stopped by America’s oldest library building, which is the lovely Sturgis Library in Barnstable Village, on Cape Cod’s north shore. And he pointed out to the easily alarmed librarian that the library’s most recent general reference work was a 1938
, back-stopped by a 1910
. He said many important things had happened since 1938, naming, among others, penicillin and Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

He was advised to take his astonishment to some of the library’s directors. He was given their names and addresses. There was a Cabot on the list—and a Lowell and a Kittredge, and some others. The librarian told him that he had a chance of catching several directors all at once, if he would go to the Barnstable Yacht Club. So he went down the narrow yacht club road, nearly broke his neck as he hit a series of terrific bumps put in the road to discourage speeders, to kill them, if possible.

He wanted a martini, wondered if a nonmember could get service at the bar. He was appalled to discover that the club was nothing but a shack fourteen feet wide and thirty feet long, a touch of the Ozarks in Massachusetts. It contained an hilariously warped ping-pong table, a wire lost-and-found basket with sandy, fragrant contents, and an upright piano that had been under a leak in the roof for years.

There wasn’t any bar, any telephone, any electricity. There weren’t any members there, either. To cap it all, there wasn’t a drop of water in the harbor. The tide, which can be as
great as fourteen feet, was utterly out. And the so-called yachts, antique wooden Rhodes 18’s,
, and a couple of
Boston Whalers
, were resting on the bluish-brown glurp of the emptied harbor’s floor. Clouds of gulls and terns were yelling about all that glurp, and about all the good things in it they were finding to eat.

BOOK: Welcome to the Monkey House: The Special Edition
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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