Welcome to the Monkey House

Welcome to the Monkey House

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Kurt Vonnegut is a master of contemporary American Literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in The Siren's of Titan in 1959 and established him as "a true artist"* with Cat's Cradle in 1963. He is, as Graham Greene has declared, "one of the best living American writers."

Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of Kurt Vonnegut's shorter works. Originally printed in publications as diverse as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and The Atlantic Monthly, what these superb stories share is Vonnegut's audacious sense of humor and extraordinary range of creative vision.

*The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062314369
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Edition description: Unabridged, Low Price CD
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.40(d)

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 Siren's of Titan in 1959 and established him as "a true artist" with Cat's Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene has declared, "one of the best living American writers."

David Strathairn reads "Welcome to the Monkey House," "Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog," "D.P.," "The Lie," and "Adam".

Maria Tucci began her career in the original production of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. She won a Tony® nomination for her work in The Rose Tattoo, has starred on Broadway and off-Broadway, and in such films as Sweet Nothing and To Die For.

Date of Birth:

November 11, 1922

Date of Death:

April 11, 2007

Place of Birth:

Indianapolis, Indiana

Place of Death:

New York, New York


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

Read an Excerpt

Welcome to the Monkey House

By Kurt Vonnegut

Random House

Kurt Vonnegut
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385333501

Chapter One

Where I Live

Not very long ago, 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 Britannica, backstopped by a 1910 Americana. 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 hadbeen 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, Bettlecats, 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.

A few men were out there, too, digging clams as fat as partridges from the rim of Sandy Neck, the ten-mile-long sand finger that separates the harbor from the ice-cold bay. And ducks and geese and herons and other waterfowl were out there, too, teemingly, in the great salt marsh that bounds the harbor on the west. And, near the harbor's narrow mouth, a yawl from Marblehead with a six-foot keel lay on her side, waiting for the water to come back in again. She should never have come to Barnstable Village, not with a keel like that.

The salesman, very depressed, insensitive to the barbarous beauty all around him, went to lunch. Since he was in the seat of the most booming county in New England, Barnstable County, and since the boom was a tourist boom, he had reason to expect something mildly voluptuous in the way of a place to eat. What he had to settle for, though, was a chromium stool at a Formica counter in an aggressively un-cute, un-colonial institution called the Barnstable News Store, another Ozarks touch, an Ozarks department store. The motto of the place: "If it's any good, we've got it. If it's no good, we've sold it."

After lunch, he went trustee-hunting again, was told to try the village museum, which is in the old brick Customs House. The building itself is a memorial to long-gone days when the harbor was used by fair-sized ships, before it filled up with all that bluish-brown glurp. There was no trustee there, and the exhibits were excruciatingly boring. The salesman found himself strangling on apathy, an affliction epidemic among casual visitors to Barnstable Village.

He took the customary cure, which was to jump into his car and roar off toward the cocktail lounges, motor courts, bowling alleys, gift shops, and pizzerias of Hyannis, the commercial heart of Cape Cod. He there worked off his frustrations on a miniature golf course called Playland. At that time, that particular course had a pathetic, maddening feature typical of the random butchery of the Cape's south shore. The course was built on the lawn of what had once been an American Legion Post--and, right in the middle of the cunning little bridges and granulated cork fairways was a Sherman tank, set there in simpler and less enterprising days as a memorial to the veterans of World War Two.

The memorial has since been moved, but it is still on the south side, where it is bound to be engulfed by indignities again.

The dignity of the tank would be a lot safer in Barnstable Village, but the village would never accept it. It has a policy of never accepting anything. As a happy consequence, it changes about as fast as the rules of chess.

The biggest change in recent years has taken place at the polls. Until six years ago, the Democratic poll watchers and the Republican poll watchers were all Republicans. Now the Democratic poll watchers are Democrats. The consequences of this revolution have not been nearly as awful as expected--so far.

Another break with the past has to do with the treasury of the local amateur theatrical society, the Barnstable Comedy Club. The club had a treasurer who, once a month for thirty years, angrily refused to say what the balance was, for fear that the club would spend it foolishly. He resigned last year. The new treasurer announced a balance of four hundred dollars and some odd cents, and the membership blew it all on a new curtain the color of spoiled salmon. This ptomaine curtain, incidentally, made its debut during a production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial in which Captain Queeg did not nervously rattle steel balls in his hand. The balls were eliminated on the theory that they were suggestive.

Another big change took place about sixty years ago, when it was discovered that tuna were good to eat. Barnstable fishermen used to call them "horse mackerel," and curse whenever they caught one. Still cursing, they would chop it up and throw it back into the bay as a warning to other horse mackerel. Out of courage or plain stupidity, the tuna did not go away, and now make possible a post-Labor Day festival called the Barnstable Tuna Derby. Sportsmen with reels as big as courthouse clocks come from all over the Eastern seaboard for the event, the villagers are always mystified as to what brought them. And nobody ever catches anything.

Another discovery that still lies in the future for the villagers to make and to learn to live with is that mussels can be eaten without causing instant death. Barnstable Harbor is in places clogged with them. They are never disturbed. One reason for their being ignored, perhaps, is that the harbor abounds in two other delicacies far simpler to prepare--striped bass and clams. To get clams, one can scratch almost anywhere when the tide is out. To get bass, one follows the birds, looks for cone-shaped formations of them, casts his lure to the place where the cone points. Bass will be feeding there.

As for what else the future holds: Few Cape villages have much chance of coming through the present greedy, tasteless boom with their souls intact. H. L. Mencken once said something to the effect that "Nobody ever went broke overestimating the vulgarity of the American people," and fortunes now being made out of the vulgarization of the Cape surely bear this out. The soul of Barnstable Village just might survive.

For one thing, it is not a hollow village, with everything for rent, with half of the houses empty in the winter. Most of the people live there all year round, and most of them aren't old, and most of them work--as carpenters, salesmen, masons, architects, teachers, writers, and what have you. It is a classless society, a sometimes affectionate and sentimental one.

And these full houses, often riddled by termites and dry rot, but good, probably, for a few hundred years more, have been built chockablock along Main Street since the end of the Civil War. Developers find very little room in which to work their pious depredations. There is a seeming vast green meadow to the west, but this is salt marsh, the bluish-brown glurp capped by a mat of salt hay. It was this natural hay, by the way, that tempted settlers down from Plymouth in 1639. The marsh, laced by deep creeks that can be explored by small boats, can never be built upon by anyone sane. It goes underwater at every moon tide, and is capable of supporting a man and his dog, and not much more.

Speculators and developers got very excited for a while about the possibility of improving Sandy Neck, the long, slender barrier of spectacular dunes that bounds the harbor on the north. There are grotesque forests of dead trees out there, trees suffocated by sand, then unburied again. And the outer beach, for all practical purposes infinite, puts the beach of Acapulco to shame. Surprisingly, too, fresh water can be had out there from quite shallow wells. But the local government, thank God, is buying up all of Sandy Neck but the tip, at the harbor mouth, and is making it a public park to be kept unimproved forever.

There is a tiny settlement on the tip of the neck, the tip that the government is not taking over. It is clustered around the abandoned lighthouse, a lighthouse that was once needed when there was water enough around to let big ships come and go. The bleached and tacky settlement can be reached only by boat or beach buggy. There is no electricity there, no telephone. It is a private resort. Less than a mile from Barnstable Village, the tip of the neck is where many villagers go when they need a vacation.

And all of the anachronistic, mildly xenophobic, charming queerness of Barnstable Village might entitle it to the epithet, "Last Stronghold of the True Cape Codders," if it weren't for one thing: Hardly anyone in the village was born on Cape Cod. Just as petrified wood is formed by minerals slowly replacing organic materials, so has the present-day petrified Barnstable been formed by persons from Evanston and Louisville and Boston and Pittsburgh and God-only-knows-where-else, slowly replacing authentic rural Yankees.

If the real Cape Codders could rise from their churchyard graves, cast aside their beautifully lettered slate headstones, and attend a meeting of the Barnstable Village Civic Association, they would approve of the proceedings. Every proposal that has ever come before the organization has been hotly debated and voted down, except that a new siren be bought for the rescue truck. The siren goes bweep-bweep-bweep instead of rowrrr, and is guaranteed to be audible at a distance of three miles.

The library, incidentally, now has a new Britannica, and a new Americana, too, purchases it made effortlessly, since it has money coming out of its ears. But so far, the school marks of the children and the conversation of the adults have not conspicuously improved.

Since the village exists for itself, and not for passersby, and since it specializes in hastening tourists on to paradises elsewhere, visitors play hell finding anything to like about it. For a quick sample of how good it can be, a visitor might stop off at St. Mary's Church on Main Street, which has, unadvertised anywhere, the most enchanting church garden in America. The garden is the work of one man, Robert Nicholson, an Episcopalian minister, a good man who died young.

At a village cocktail party one time--and the villagers do drink a lot--Father Nicholson was talking to a Roman Catholic and a Jew, trying to find a word to describe the underlying spiritual unity of Barnstable. He found one. "We're Druids," he said.

Excerpted from Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut Excerpted by permission.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Welcome to the Monkey House 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is the best compilation of short storys ever compiled by one author. All of them are very different but each keeps you interested. I had to find a short story for my creative writing class so i chose this. It was difficult to choose which story i should pick because each reaches out to a different part of you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This collections of short stories is simply splendid! Some of Vonnegut's best work, my personal favorite is "Who am I This Time?" This is a great buy and the stories can be enjoyed over and over again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been told to read titles by this author unfortunately I could not find very many on audio, which is the only way I can read books due to a physical disability When I heard Mr. Vonnegut had died on searched for days I finally sound this title and slaughterhouse five along with breakfast champions and hocus-pocus. I am working my way through them all this is by far the best collection of short stories I have ever read. The stories are poignant and sometimes funny that will make you laugh as well as cry. Mr. Vonnegut you truly were legend who understood the human condition. You will be remembered a long with Great American writers like Mark Twain and Herman Melville. Rest in peace great man we will Miss you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
These stories changed my life. Vonnegut's imagination is like nothing else i've read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A collection of great stories by Vonnegut. I especially enjoyed Harrison Bergeron. A frightening prediction of the future of political correctness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first title of Vonnegut's that I read was 'Sirens of Titan' followed by 'Breakfast of Champions'. 'Welcome to the Monkey House' is truly the window to see within Vonneguts' brain. Just about the time you believe you have the author's style of writing understood by reading a couple of his novels you read 'Welcome to ...' and are hit by a series of stories that reveals an insightfulness into human nature that is so pure that you can easily be absorbed into the story, relating to your own life's experiences - both the joys and the disappointments. I recommend this book not only due to the incredible insight Vonnegut reveals in man's emotions and nature but also as an example to aspiring writers revealing both the depth and dimension of an author who 'understands'how to convey to the reader emotions that can be felt coming off of the page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
These stories are not funny at all. These are very serious stories - tear-jerkers. My favorite was 'The Kid Nobody Could Handle'. This is a must read for any Kurt Vonnegut fan.
AuntPetunia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Essential reading for lateral thinkers
AshRyan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Vonnegut book, of those I have read so far (including some of his non-fiction essays, which are terrible, his most well-known novels, which are mixed, and a couple of other short story collections, which are okay). The title story---about a future society that has outlawed sexual pleasure---and "Harrison Bergeron"---a brilliant satire of egalitarianism (which is strange, considering Vonnegut's own egalitarian leanings)---are great, and there are several other good stories, and none that are really bad.
jonwwil on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My road to Vonnegut has been a long one. I read Slaughterhouse-Five for a Contemporary Fiction class in college and enjoyed it very much, and I always intended to explore his other works at some point. Unfortunately, that didn't happen until a publication I subscribe to arrived in my mailbox containing an essay from his most recent (and, unfortunately, posthumous) collection, Armageddon in Retrospect. I was immediately gripped by the vitality of the piece, a reflection on the firebombing of Dresden, and I knew the time had come for me to finally get my hands on more of Vonnegut's work.When I first opened this book, I found myself laughing out loud at the preface, and I knew I was in good hands. Paging back through the book now, I find myself fighting an urge to read passages aloud to no one. Some stories within are science fiction (with an interesting dichotomy of utopia/dystopia) while others are "mainstream" fiction, and they vary quite a bit in theme and tone; but I found in each of them a core of distinct humanity that pulled me in.I thought about naming the stories in this collection that I enjoyed the most, until I realized that I'd be listing most of the table of contents. Suffice it to say that this is a wonderful book. Some of the stories are better than others, of course, but they're all accessible and highly interesting. Vonnegut's humor is often dark, but it shines, and his insights into humanity's quirks and foibles are sometimes stunning (I will point you here to "The Manned Missiles").Waiting so long to rediscover Vonnegut's work was my mistake. I do not plan to make it again.
oshefa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hands down the greatest short story compilation by a master of the written word. Gems like "Harrison Bergeron" and the "Euphio Question" are simply incredible explorations into society's incessant need to strive for an unreachable utopia at the cost of humanity's soul. Highly, highly recommended.
reblacke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another Vonnegut classic. Need I say more?
sadiebooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
absolutely wonderful collection. the long walk to forever is by far my favorite.
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book soon after reading Slaughter House Five, but put it aside until a road trip I took a year later. There were about eight of us in a cramped car, and one of the girls found this, and started reading stories to the rest of us. More than once we were convulsing with laughter. Later, I went through the book myself, and found myself almost in tears. I am not a fan of short stories, but this book is near and dear to my heart.
rcooper3589 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another fast read, I read this book in about a week or so. Much like his other books, I really enjoyed this collection of stories. I found many of the stories on the sad/depressing side, which seemed to put a damper on the book. The stories, however, which dealt with politics, society etc. I really liked and nicely offset the love themed ones. Like his other books, this one made me think about the people and things that sourround me on a daily basis. If you haven't read this book, I highly reccommend it.
stipe168 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
suprisingly, his short stories aren't all misanthropic visions of the future.. even though a lot of them are and they're great. some are really great small town and/or love stories, all of which are equally as good. or great.
Djupstrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Welcome...is exactly what you would expect from Kurt Vonnegut. A series of short stories that are dark, humorous, terrifying, mesmerizing, and like no one else could write. Well Done!!
ausie7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was required for school, but I finished most of the stories on my own time. Some were better than others. Their focus was sometimes a little weird but I enjoyed Vonnegut's take on certain issues. His points were not too off base. A lot of things that he discussed are very important issues even today. I enjoyed reading it and I reccommend it for anyone looking for some insightful reading.
beautyredefined on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So...I don't think I'm exactly the right type of person for short stories. I'm probably too impatient to keep reading to really sit back and absorb each story for what it is, and to really digest what Vonnegut was trying to say in each story. I'm the same way with poetry. Anyway, my reading habits notwithstanding, I still enjoyed this collection, though the stories just sort of live in my head as fleeting images. Each one is just a small glimpse into a different world. I'm often a little dismayed when I come to the end of each story, since I'm the kind of person who always wants to know what happens next, and why these fleeting images can sometimes be unsatisfying. On the other hand, other stories I think are quite well contained in their few pages, and make for a well-rounded story in and of itself. Am I making sense? Probably not.I still can't think of a good way to describe Vonnegut. He seems to defy classification, and the stories contained in "Welcome to the Monkey House" agree. Perhaps it's just my lack of willingness to put the time into fully analyzing it, but I don't sense an overarching theme to the collection - as I said, in my mind, they're just a series of disjointed images. Each one does just as well on its own as it does in a collection, I'd imagine. I was surprised to learn that I'd also read one of the stories too; in a high school lit class, we read "Harrison Bergeron," and here I'd thought that I'd never read Vonnegut before recently. Ah well - it was still a good story the second time around. I appreciate how Vonnegut writes everything so matter-of-factly. He doesn't blink an eye in describing the worlds he's created - where people 130 years old are considered young, where supercomputers can write poetry, a world where everything is equal. He never seems to judge these worlds outright - he just tells you what they are and lets you make up your own mind about them. Man...now I wish I'd gone to hear him speak in Madison.Anyway, it's a good collection of stories, but I'll probably end up sticking with novels for awhile. It's surprising the different mind set you need to read something like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an essential collection for any Vonnegut fans or fans of short stories in general. Welcome to the Monkeyhouse effectively showcases Vonnegut's humor and imagination while still delving into darker ideas. Definitely not for the reader who merely craves a happy ending!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the stories. Lots of typos in this version.
InnocenceDiesAbbyDosent More than 1 year ago
I loved Harrison Bergeron but I wish BN sold the movie 2081 i had to order it from somewhere else.