Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

by Kurt Vonnegut

Paperback(Reissue)

$15.86 $17.00 Save 7% Current price is $15.86, Original price is $17. You Save 7%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, October 28

Overview

From the acclaimed author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions comes a compilation of twenty-three never-before-collected short stories.

These vignettes of American life draw on Kurt Vonnegut's World War 2 experiences and the resolute optimism of the country after the war. Together, they present a poignant and humorous portrayal of an America peopled with overzealous high school band directors and their students, rebellious housewives, and boasting salesmen, soldiers misplaced during the war and people lost in their own gadget-filled homes. 

In an era before television, Kurt Vonnegut found a ready and willing audience in the readers of such magazines as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Argosy, and Redbook. These rare, rediscovered tales gives us a glimpse into a more innocent America—and into the developing genius of one of the greatest writers of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425174463
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/2000
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,135,670
Product dimensions: 7.76(w) x 5.04(h) x 0.97(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him, in the words of The New York Times, as “a true artist” with the publication of Cat’s Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.

Date of Birth:

November 11, 1922

Date of Death:

April 11, 2007

Place of Birth:

Indianapolis, Indiana

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

Cornell University, 1940-42; Carnegie-Mellon University, 1943; University of Chicago, 1945-47; M.A., 1971

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


Thanasphere


At noon, Wednesday, July 26th, windowpanes in the small mountain towns of Sevier County, Tennessee, were rattled by the shock and faint thunder of a distant explosion rolling down the northwest slopes of the Great Smokies. The explosion came from the general direction of the closely guarded Air Force experimental station in the forest ten miles northwest of Elkmont.

    Said the Air Force Office of Public Information, "No comment."

    That evening, amateur astronomers in Omaha, Nebraska, and Glenwood, Iowa, reported independently that a speck had crossed the face of the full moon at 9:57 p.m. There was a flurry of excitement on the news wires. Astronomers at the major North American observatories denied that they had seen it.

    They lied.

    In Boston, on the morning of Thursday, July 27th, an enterprising newsman sought out Dr. Bernard Groszinger, youthful rocket consultant for the Air Force. "Is it possible that what crossed the moon was a spaceship?" the newsman asked.

    Dr. Groszinger laughed at the question. "My own opinion is that we're beginning another cycle of flying-saucer scares," he said. "This time everyone's seeing spaceships between us and the moon. You can tell your readers this, my friend: No rocket ship will leave the earth for at least another twenty years."

    He lied.

    He knew a great deal more than he was saying, but somewhat less than he himself thought. He did not believe in ghosts, forinstance—and had yet to learn of the Thanasphere.

    Dr. Groszinger rested his long legs on his cluttered desktop, and watched his secretary conduct the disappointed newsman through the locked door, past the armed guards. He lit a cigarette and tried to relax before going back into the stale air and tension of the radio room. IS YOUR SAFE LOCKED? asked a sign on the wall, tacked there by a diligent security officer. The sign annoyed him. Security officers, security regulations only served to slow his work, to make him think about things he had no time to think about.

    The secret papers in the safe weren't secrets. They said what had been known for centuries: Given fundamental physics, it follows that a projectile fired into space in direction x, at y miles per hour, will travel in the arc z. Dr. Groszinger modified the equation: Given fundamental physics and one billion dollars.

      Impending war had offered him the opportunity to try the experiment. The threat of war was an incident, the military men about him an irritating condition of work—the experiment was the heart of the matter.

    There were no unknowns, he reflected, finding contentment in the dependability of the physical world. Young Dr. Groszinger smiled, thinking of Christopher Columbus and his crew, who hadn't known what lay ahead of them, who had been scared stiff by sea monsters that didn't exist. Maybe the average person of today felt the same way about space. The Age of Superstition still had a few years to run.

    But the man in the spaceship two thousand miles from earth had no unknowns to fear. The sullen Major Allen Rice would have nothing surprising to report in his radio messages. He could only confirm what reason had already revealed about outer space.

    The major American observatories, working closely with the project, reported that the ship was now moving around the earth in the predicted orbit at the predicted velocity. Soon, anytime now, the first message in history from outer space would be received in the radio room. The broadcast could be on an ultra-high-frequency band where no one had ever sent or received messages before.

    The first message was overdue, but nothing had gone wrong—nothing could go wrong, Dr. Groszinger assured himself again. Machines, not men, were guiding the flight. The man was a mere observer, piloted to his lonely vantage point by infallible electronic brains, swifter than his own. He had controls in his ship, but only for gliding down through the atmosphere, when and if they brought him back from space. He was equipped to stay for several years.

    Even the man was as much like a machine as possible, Dr. Groszinger thought with satisfaction. He was quick, strong, unemotional. Psychiatrists had picked Major Rice from a hundred volunteers, and predicted that he would function as perfectly as the rocket motors, the metal hull, and the electronic controls. His specifications: Husky, twenty-nine years of age, fifty-five missions over Europe during the Second World War without a sign of fatigue, a childless widower, melancholy and solitary, a career soldier, a demon for work.

    The Major's mission? Simple: To report weather conditions over enemy territory, and to observe the accuracy of guided atomic missiles in the event of war.

    Major Rice was fixed in the solar system, two thousand miles above the earth now—close by, really—the distance from New York to Salt Lake City, not far enough away to see much of the polar icecaps, even. With a telescope, Rice could pick out small towns and the wakes of ships without much trouble. It would be breathtaking to watch the enormous blue-and-green ball, to see night creeping around it, and clouds and storms growing and swirling over its face.

    Dr. Groszinger tamped out his cigarette, absently lit another almost at once, and strode down the corridor to the small laboratory where the radio equipment had been set up.

    Lieutenant General Franklin Dane, head of Project Cyclops, sat next to the radio operator, his uniform rumpled, his collar open. The General stared expectantly at the loudspeaker before him. The floor was littered with sandwich wrappings and cigarette butts. Coffee-filled paper cups stood before the General and the radio operator, and beside the canvas chair where Groszinger had spent the night waiting.

    General Dane nodded to Groszinger and motioned with his hand for silence.

    "Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley. Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley ..." droned the radio operator wearily, using the code names. "Can you hear me, Able Baker Fox? Can you—"

    The loudspeaker crackled, then, tuned to its peak volume, boomed: "This is Able Baker Fox. Come in, Dog Easy Charley. Over."

    General Dane jumped to his feet and embraced Groszinger. They laughed idiotically and pounded each other on the back. The General snatched the microphone from the radio operator. "You made it. Able Baker Fox! Right on course! What's it like, boy? What's it feel like? Over." Groszinger, his arm draped around the General's shoulders, leaned forward eagerly, his ear a few inches from the speaker. The radio operator turned the volume down, so that they could hear something of the quality of Major Rice's voice.

    The voice came through again, soft, hesitant. The tone disturbed Groszinger—he had wanted it to be crisp, sharp, efficient.

    "This side of the earth's dark, very dark just now. And I feel like I'm falling—the way you said I would. Over."

    "Is anything the matter?" asked the General anxiously. "You sound as though something—"

    The Major cut in before he could finish: "There! Did you hear that?"

    "Able Baker Fox, we can't hear anything," said the General, looking perplexed at Groszinger. "What is it—some kind of noise in your receiver? Over."

    "A child," said the Major. "I hear a child crying. Don't you hear it? And now—listen!—now an old man is trying to comfort it." His voice seemed farther away, as though he were no longer speaking directly into his microphone.

    "That's impossible, ridiculous!" said Groszinger. "Check your set, Able Baker Fox, check your set. Over."

    "They're getting louder now. The voices are louder. I can't hear you very well above them. It's like standing in the middle of a crowd, with everybody trying to get my attention at once. It's like ..." The message trailed off. They could hear a shushing sound in the speaker. The Major's transmitter was still on.

    "Can you hear me, Able Baker Fox? Answer! Can you hear me?" called General Dane.

    The shushing noise stopped. The General and Groszinger stared blankly at the speaker.

    "Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley," chanted the radio operator. "Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley...."


    Groszinger, his eyes shielded from the glaring ceiling light of the radio room by a newspaper, lay fully dressed on the cot that had been brought in for him. Every few minutes he ran his long, slender fingers through his tangled hair and swore. His machine had worked perfectly, was working perfectly. The one thing he had not designed, the damn man in it, had failed, had destroyed the whole experiment.

    They had been trying for six hours to reestablish contact with the lunatic who peered down at earth from his tiny steel moon and heard voices.

    "He's coming in again, sir," said the radio operator. "This is Dog Easy Charley. Come in, Able Baker Fox. Over."

    "This is Able Baker Fox. Clear weather over Zones Seven, Eleven, Nineteen, and Twenty-three. Zones One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six overcast. Storm seems to be shaping up over Zones Eight and Nine, moving south by southwest at about eighteen miles an hour. Over."

    "He's OK now," said the General, relieved.

    Grozinger remained supine, his head still covered with the newspaper. "Ask him about the voices," he said.

    "You don't hear the voices anymore, do you, Able Baker Fox?"

    "What do you mean, I don't hear them? I can hear them better than I can hear you. Over."

    "He's out of his head," said Groszinger, sitting up.

    "I heard that," said Major Rice. "Maybe I am. It shouldn't be too hard to check. All you have to do is find out if an Andrew Tobin died in Evansville, Indiana, on February 17, 1927. Over."

    "I don't follow you, Able Baker Fox," said the General. "Who was Andrew Tobin? Over."

    "He's one of the voices." There was an uncomfortable pause. Major Rice cleared his throat. "Claims his brother murdered him. Over."

     The radio operator had risen slowly from his stool, his face chalk-white. Groszinger pushed him back down and took the microphone from the General's now limp hand.

    "Either you've lost your mind, or this is the most sophomoric practical joke in history, Able Baker Fox," said Groszinger. "This is Groszinger you're talking to, and you're dumber than I think you are if you think you can kid me." He nodded. "Over."

    "I can't hear you very well anymore, Dog Easy Charley. Sorry, but the voices are getting louder."

    "Rice! Straighten out!" said Groszinger.

    "There—I caught that: Mrs. Pamela Ritter wants her husband to marry again, for the sake of the children. He lives at—"

    "Stop it!"

    "He lives at 1577 Damon Place, in Scotia, New York. Over and out."


    General Dane shook Groszinger's shoulder gently. "You've been asleep five hours," he said. "It's midnight." He handed him a cup of coffee. "We've got some more messages. Interested?"

    Groszinger sipped the coffee. "Is he still raving?"

    "He still hears the voices, if that's what you mean." The General dropped two unopened telegrams in Groszinger's lap. "Thought you might like to be the one to open these."

    Groszinger laughed. "Went ahead and checked Scotia and Evansville, did you? God help this army, if all the generals are as superstitious as you, my friend."

    "OK, OK, you're the scientist, you're the brain-box. That's why I want you to open the telegrams. I want you to tell me what in hell's going on.

    Groszinger opened one of the telegrams.


HARVEY RITTER LISTED FOR 1577 DAMON PLACE, SCOTIA. GE ENGINEER. WIDOWER, TWO CHILDREN. DECEASED WIFE NAMED PAMELA. DO YOU NEED MORE INFORMATION? R. B. FAILEY, CHIEF, SCOTIA POLICE


    He shrugged and handed the message to General Dane, then opened the other telegram:


RECORDS SHOW ANDREW TOBIN DIED IN HUNTING ACCIDENT FEBRUARY 17, 1927. BROTHER PAUL LEADING BUSINESSMAN. OWNS COAL BUSINESS STARTED BY ANDREW. CAN FURNISH FURTHER DETAILS IF NEEDED. E B. JOHNSON, CHIEF, EVANSVILLE P.D.


    "I'm not surprised," said Groszinger. "I expected something like this. I suppose you're firmly convinced now that our friend Major Rice has found outer space populated by ghosts?"

    "Well, I'd say he's sure as hell found it populated by something," said the General.

    Groszinger wadded the second telegram in his fist and threw it across the room, missing the wastebasket by a foot. He folded his hands and affected the patient, priestlike pose he used in lecturing freshman physics classes. "At first, my friend, we had two possible conclusions: Either Major Rice was insane, or he was pulling off a spectacular hoax." He twiddled his thumbs, waiting for the General to digest this intelligence. "Now that we know his spirit messages deal with real people, we've got to conclude that he has planned and is now carrying out some sort of hoax. He got his names and addresses before he took off. God knows what he hopes to accomplish by it. God knows what we can do to make him stop it. That's your problem, I'd say."

     The General's eyes narrowed. "So he's trying to jimmy the project, is he? We'll see, by God, we'll see." The radio operator was dozing. The General slapped him on the back. "On the ball, Sergeant, on the ball. Keep calling Rice till you get him, understand?"

    The radio operator had to call only once.

    "This is Able Baker Fox. Come in, Dog Easy Charley." Major Rice's voice was tired.

    "This is Dog Easy Charley," said General Dane. "We've had enough of your voices, Able Baker Fox—do you understand? We don't want to hear any more about them. We're onto your little game. I don't know what your angle is, but I do know I'll bring you back down and slap you on a rock pile in Leavenworth so fast you'll leave your teeth up there. Do we understand each other?" The General bit the tip from a fresh cigar fiercely. "Over."

    "Did you check those names and addresses? Over."

    The General looked at Groszinger, who frowned and shook his head. "Sure we did. That doesn't prove anything. So you've got a list of names and addresses up there. So what does that prove? Over."

    "You say those names checked? Over."

    "I'm telling you to quit it, Rice. Right now. Forget the voices, do you hear? Give me a weather report. Over."

    "Clear patches over Zones Eleven, Fifteen, and Sixteen. Looks like a solid overcast in One, Two, and Three. All clear in the rest. Over."

    "That's more like it, Able Baker Fox," said the General. "We'll forget about the voices, eh? Over."

    "There's an old woman calling out something in a German accent. Is Dr. Groszinger there? I think she's calling his name. She's asking him not to get too wound up in his work—not to—"

    Groszinger leaned over the radio operator's shoulder and snapped off the switch on the receiver. "Of all the cheap, sickening stunts," he said.

    "Let's hear what he has to say," said the General. "Thought you were a scientist."

    Groszinger glared at him defiantly, snapped on the receiver, and stood back, his hands on his hips.

    "—saying something in German," continued the voice of Major Rice. "Can't understand it. Maybe you can. I'll give it to you the way it sounds: 'Alles geben die Götter, die unendlichen, ihren Lieblingen, ganz. Alle—'"

    Groszinger turned down the volume. "'Alle Freuden, die unendlichen, alle Schmerzen, die unendlichen, ganz,'" he said faintly. "That's how it ends." He sat down on the cot. "It's my mother's favorite quotation—something from Goethe."

    "I can threaten him again," said the General.

    "What for?" Groszinger shrugged and smiled. "Outer space is full of voices." He laughed nervously. "There's something to pep up a physics textbook."

    "An omen, sir—it's an omen," blurted the radio operator.

    "What the hell do you mean, an omen?" said the General. "So outer space is filled with ghosts. That doesn't surprise me."

    "Nothing would, then," said Groszinger.

    "That's exactly right. I'd be a hell of a general if anything would. For all I know, the moon is made of green cheese. So what. All I want is a man out there to tell me that I'm hitting what I'm shooting at. I don't give a damn what's going on in outer space."

    "Don't you see, sir?" said the radio operator. "Don't you see? It's an omen. When people find out about all the spirits out there they'll forget about war. They won't want to think about anything but the spirits."

    "Relax, Sergeant," said the General. "Nobody's going to find out about them, understand?"

    "You can't suppress a discovery like this," said Groszinger.

    "You're nuts if you think I can't," said General Dane. "How're you going to tell anybody about this business without telling them we've got a rocket ship out there?"

    "They've got a right to know," said the radio operator.

    "If the world finds out we have that ship out there, that's the start of World War Three," said the General. "Now tell me you want that. The enemy won't have any choice but to try and blow the hell out of us before we can put Major Rice to any use. And there'd be nothing for us to do but try and blow the hell out of them first. Is that what you want?"

    "No, sir," said the radio operator. "I guess not, sir."

    "Well, we can experiment, anyway," said Groszinger. "We can find out as much as possible about what the spirits are like. We can send Rice into a wider orbit to find out how far out he can hear the voices, and whether—"

    "Not on Air Force funds, you can't," said General Dane. "That isn't what Rice is out there for. We can't afford to piddle around. We need him right there."

    "All right, all right," said Groszinger. "Then let's hear what he has to say."

    "Tune him in, Sergeant," said the General.

    "Yes, sir." The radio operator fiddled with the dials. "He doesn't seem to be transmitting now, sir." The shushing noise of a transmitter cut into the hum of the loudspeaker. "I guess he's coming in again. Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley—"

    "King Two X-ray William Love, this is William Five Zebra Zebra King in Dallas," said the loudspeaker. The voice had a soft drawl and was pitched higher than Major Rice's.

    A bass voice answered: "This is King Two X-ray William Love in Albany. Come in W5ZZK, I hear you well. How do you hear me? Over."

    "You're clear as a bell, K2XWL—twenty-five thousand megacycles on the button. I'm trying to cut down on my drift with a—"

    The voice of Major Rice interrupted. "I can't hear you clearly, Dog Easy Charley. The voices are a steady roar now. I can catch bits of what they're saying. Grantland Whitman, the Hollywood actor, is yelling that his will was tampered with by his nephew Carl. He says—"

    "Say again, K2XWL," said the drawling voice. "I must have misunderstood you. Over."

    "I didn't say anything, W5ZZK. What was that about Grantland Whitman? Over."

    "The crowd's quieting down," said Major Rice. "Now there's just one voice—a young woman, I think. It's so soft I can't make out what she's saying."

    "What's going on, K2XWL? Can you hear me, K2XWL?"

    "She's calling my name. Do you hear it? She's calling my name," said Major Rice.

    "Jam the frequency, dammit!" cried the General. "Yell, whistle—do something!"


    Early-morning traffic past the university came to a honking, bad-tempered stop, as Groszinger absently crossed the street against the light, on his way back to his office and the radio room. He looked up in surprise, mumbled an apology, and hurried to the curb. He had had a solitary breakfast in an all-night diner a block and a half from the laboratory building, and then he'd taken a long walk. He had hoped that getting away for a couple of hours would clear his head—but the feeling of confusion and helplessness was still with him. Did the world have a right to know, or didn't it?

    There had been no more messages from Major Rice. At the General's orders, the frequency had been jammed. Now the unexpected eavesdroppers could hear nothing but a steady whine at 25,000 megacycles. General Dane had reported the dilemma to Washington shortly after midnight. Perhaps orders as to what to do with Major Rice had come through by now.

    Groszinger paused in a patch of sunlight on the laboratory building's steps, and read again the front-page news story, which ran fancifully for a column, beneath the headline "Mystery Radio Message Reveals Possible Will Fraud." The story told of two radio amateurs, experimenting illegally on the supposedly unused ultra-high-frequency band, who had been amazed to hear a man chattering about voices and a will. The amateurs had broken the law, operating on an unassigned frequency, but they hadn't kept their mouths shut about their discovery. Now hams all over the world would be building sets so they could listen in, too.

    "Morning, sir. Nice morning, isn't it?" said a guard coming off duty. He was a cheerful Irishman.

    "Fine morning, all right," agreed Groszinger. "Clouding up a little in the west, maybe." He wondered what the guard would say if he told him what he knew. He would laugh, probably.

    Groszinger's secretary was dusting off his desk when he walked in. "You could use some sleep, couldn't you?" she said. "Honestly, why you men don't take better care of yourselves I just don't know. If you had a wife, she'd make you—"

    "Never felt better in my life," said Groszinger. "Any word from General Dane?"

    "He was looking for you about ten minutes ago. He's back in the radio room now. He's been on the phone with Washington for half an hour."

    She had only the vaguest notion of what the project was about. Again, Groszinger felt the urge to tell about Major Rice and the voices, to see what effect the news would have on someone else. Perhaps his secretary would react as he himself had reacted, with a shrug. Maybe that was the spirit of this era of the atom bomb, H-bomb, God-knows-what-next bomb—to be amazed at nothing. Science had given humanity forces enough to destroy the earth, and politics had given humanity a fair assurance that the forces would be used. There could be no cause for awe to top that one. But proof of a spirit world might at least equal it. Maybe that was the shock the world needed, maybe word from the spirits could change the suicidal course of history.

    General Dane looked up wearily as Groszinger walked into the radio room. "They're bringing him down," he said. "There's nothing else we can do. He's no damn good to us now." The loudspeaker, turned low, sang the monotonous hum of the jamming signal. The radio operator slept before the set, his head resting on his folded arms.

    "Did you try to get through to him again?"

    "Twice. He's clear off his head now. Tried to tell him to change his frequency, to code his messages, but he just went on jabbering like he couldn't hear me—talking about that woman's voice."

    "Who's the woman? Did he say?"

    The General looked at him oddly. "Says it's his wife, Margaret. Guess that's enough to throw anybody, wouldn't you say? Pretty bright, weren't we, sending up a guy with no family ties." He arose and stretched. "I'm going out for a minute. Just make sure you keep your hands off that set." He slammed the door behind him.

    The radio operator stirred. "They're bringing him down," he said.

    "I know," said Groszinger.

    "That'll kill him, won't it?"

    "He has controls for gliding her in, once he hits the atmosphere."

    "If he wants to."

    "That's right—if he wants to. They'll get him out of his orbit and back to the atmosphere under rocket power. After that, it'll be up to him to take over and make the landing."

    They fell silent. The only sound in the room was the muted jamming signal in the loudspeaker.

    "He don't want to live, you know that?" said the radio operator suddenly. "Would you want to?"

    "Guess that's something you don't know until you come up against it," said Groszinger. He was trying to imagine the world of the future—a world in constant touch with the spirits, the living inseparable from the dead. It was bound to come. Other men, probing into space, were certain to find out. Would it make life heaven or hell? Every bum and genius, criminal and hero, average man and madman, now and forever part of humanity—advising, squabbling, conniving, placating ...

    The radio operator looked furtively toward the door. "Want to hear him again?"

    Groszinger shook his head. "Everybody's listening to that frequency now. We'd all be in a nice mess if you stopped jamming." He didn't want to hear more. He was baffled, miserable. Would Death unmasked drive men to suicide, or bring new hope? he was asking himself. Would the living desert their leaders and turn to the dead for guidance? To Caesar ... Charlemagne ... Peter the Great ... Napoleon ... Bismarck ... Lincoln ... Roosevelt? To Jesus Christ? Were the dead wiser than—

    Before Groszinger could stop him, the sergeant switched off the oscillator that was jamming the frequency.

    Major Rice's voice came through instantly, high and giddy. "... thousands of them, thousands of them, all around me, standing on nothing, shimmering like northern lights—beautiful, curving off in space, all around the earth like a glowing fog. I can see them, do you hear? I can see them now. I can see Margaret. She's waving and smiling, misty, heavenly, beautiful. If only you could see it, if—"

    The radio operator flicked on the jamming signal. There was a footfall in the hallway.

     General Dane stalked into the radio room, studying his watch. "In five minutes they'll start him down," he said. He plunged his hands deep into his pockets and slouched dejectedly. "We failed this time. Next time, by God, we'll make it. The next man who goes up will know what he's up against—he'll be ready to take it."

    He put his hand on Groszinger's shoulder. "The most important job you'll ever have to do, my friend, is to keep your mouth shut about those spirits out there, do you understand? We don't want the enemy to know we've had a ship out there, and we don't want them to know what they'll come across if they try it. The security of this country depends on that being our secret. Do I make myself clear?"

    "Yes, sir," said Groszinger, grateful to have no choice but to be quiet. He didn't want to be the one to tell the world. He wished he had had nothing to do with sending Rice out into space. What discovery of the dead would do to humanity he didn't know, but the impact would be terrific. Now, like the rest, he would have to wait for the next wild twist of history.

    The General looked at his watch again. "They're bringing him down," he said.


    At 1:39 p.m., on Friday, July 28th, the British liner Capricorn, two hundred eighty miles out of New York City, bound for Liverpool, radioed that an unidentified object had crashed into the sea, sending up a towering geyser on the horizon to starboard of the ship. Several passengers were said to have seen something glinting as the thing fell from the sky. Upon reaching the scene of the crash, the Capricorn reported finding dead and stunned fish on the surface, and turbulent water, but no wreckage.

    Newspapers suggested that the Capricorn had seen the crash of an experimental rocket fired out to sea in a test of range. The Secretary of Defense promptly denied that any such tests were being conducted over the Atlantic.

    In Boston, Dr. Bernard Groszinger, young rocket consultant for the Air Force, told newsmen that what the Capricorn had observed might well have been a meteor.

    "That seems quite likely," he said. "If it was a meteor, the fact that it reached the earth's surface should, I think, be one of the year's most important science news stories. Usually meteors burn to nothing before they're even through the stratosphere."

    "Excuse me, sir," interrupted a reporter. "Is there anything out beyond the stratosphere—I mean, is there any name for it?"

    "Well, actually the term 'stratosphere' is kind of arbitrary. It's the outer shell of the atmosphere. You can't say definitely where it stops. Beyond it is just, well—dead space."

    "Dead space—that's the right name for it, eh?" said the reporter.

    "If you want something fancier, maybe we could put it into Greek," said Groszinger playfully. "Thanatos, that's Greek for 'death,' I think. Maybe instead of 'dead space' you'd prefer 'Thanasphere.' Has a nice scientific ring to it, don't you think?"

The newsmen laughed politely.

     "Dr. Groszinger, when's the first rocket ship going to make it into space?" asked another reporter.

    "You people read too many comic books," said Groszinger. "Come back in twenty years, and maybe I'll have a story for you."

Table of Contents

Preface by Peter Reed
Introduction
Thanasphere
Mnemonics
Any Reasonable Offer
The Package
The No-Talent Kid
Poor Little Rich Town
Souvenir
The Cruise of the Jolly Roger
Custom-Made Bride
Ambitious Sophomore
Bagombo Snuff Box
The Powder-Blue Dragon
A Present for Big Saint Nick
Unpaid Consultant
Der Arme Dolmetscher
The Boy Who Hated Girls
This Son of Mine
A Night for Love
Find Me a Dream
Runaways
2BR02B
Lovers Anonymous
Hal Irwin's Magic Lamp

Coda to My Career as a Writer for Periodicals

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
fuzzy_patters on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a short story collection by Kurt Vonnegut. These short stories were written in a time when a writer could make a living selling short stories to commercial magazines, and these were Vonnegut's. Other writers who were cranking out short stories for a regular paycheck included William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway,and John Steinbeck, so Vonnegut was in good company in this regard.The stories in this collection are all very entertaining and all have Vonnegut's typical sardonic wit. None of the stories really stand out as all are quite enjoyable, and Vonnegut does not have the bad habit of repeating the same themes that can lead to a short story collection becoming tedious by the end of the book. Instead, these are all very inventive, and many are quite different from each other. The only thing missing from this collection was that one great short story that the reader will remember long after finishing the book. File these under forgettably fun read.
shadowofthewind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed these short stories. These aren't sconce fiction except for one or two stories. It demonstates Vonnegut's mastery of storytelling. He could make a rock sound intersting. I love his introductions and epilogues. It really delves into the root of all of his stories and demonstates he doesn't take himself too seriously. These are the stories he had written before and during his first major novel, player piano. Many of the characters, plots and settings are revisited in depth in his later works. It's nice to read them here in their infancy. This book is more for the already established Vonnegut fan for that reason specifically. Fab lines:It proves that the short story, because of its phsiological and psychological effects on a human being, is more closely related to Buddhist styles of meditation than it is to any other form of narrative entertainment...a Buddhist cat-napReading a novel, War and Peace for example, is no Catnap. Because a novel is so long, reading one is like being married forever to somebody nobody knows or cares about.
jcovington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is probably my favorite of Vonnegut's works, but then I love short stories. Some are touching, some are sad, and some are laugh out loud funny. This is some of his best work.
papskier on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting collection of stories... a different Vonnegut
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Also my first Vonegut read, I really need to read A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY though, heard that was really good. Pretty good.It's always nice to read short stories. His stories are a good read because they do make you laugh and they do make you think. I think one of the first stories is Thanosphere which is one of the best. What if we could talk to the dead? It seems sort of like a story/epilogue. The other stories are good though too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
These are some of the most easily accessible and easily entertaining short stories I've ever run across, as well as the first Vonnegut work I've ever read. A fine collection. Vonnegut is funny without even trying. I challenge anyone to read 'A Present for Big St. Nick' without laughing out loud. The three stories featuring poor Mr. Helmholtz, the woebegotten band director of Lincoln High School, are gems as well. Most importantly, Vonnegut not only makes you laugh, he makes you think. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i can not believe nobody has reviewed this yet. great works from the early days of america's finest living writer