Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Edited by Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield

Foreword by Dave Eggers

Featuring five never-before-published Vonnegut stories!

Here for the first time is the complete short fiction of one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. More than half of Vonnegut's output was short fiction, and never before has the world had occasion to wrestle with it all together. Organized thematically—"War," "Women," "Science," "Romance," "Work Ethic v. Fame and Fortune," "Behavior," "The Band Director" (those stories featuring Lincoln High's band director and nice guy, George Hemholtz), and "Futuristic"—these ninety-seven stories were written over a lifetime, from 1941 to 2007, and include those published during Vonnegut's lifetime in magazines and collected in Welcome to the Monkey House, Bagombo Snuff Box, and other books; those published posthumously; and, here for the first time, five previously unpublished stories as well as a handful of others that were published online only and read by few. Vonnegut published only about half of the stories he wrote, his agent telling him in 1958 upon the rejection of a particularly strong story, "Save it for the collection of your works which will be published someday when you become famous. Which may take a little time."

Selected and introduced by longtime Vonnegut friends and scholars Dan Wakefield and Jerome Klinkowitz, The Complete Stories puts Vonnegut's great wit, humor, and humanity on full display. An extraordinary literary feast for new readers, Vonnegut fans, and scholars alike.

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“Readers treasured Vonnegut's literary imagination not just for his stance on politics and economics, but his masterful storytelling, his inimitable wit, and his humanistic compassion. Binding these literary qualities together with his political outlook makes him relevant more than ever today.”

“This collection pulses with relevance . . . and provides an almost shameful amount of unadulterated reading pleasure. The prose is clean and the pace always brisk, and the satisfaction we draw from seeing some moral clarity, some linear order brought to a knotted world, is impossible to overstate.”

“This book is big in size and significance ... Meant to get readers thinking, these stories both preserve a lost world and showcase Vonnegut’s phenomenal prescience. In his foreword, Dave Eggers pinpoints another key trait: Vonnegut wrote “moral stories” meant to “tell us what’s right and what’s wrong, and . . . how to live.” In our time of dangerous ambiguity, Vonnegut’s clarity is restorative, his artistry and imagination affirming.”

“Vonnegut’s writing explodes with disquieting warnings and lessons that continue to ring true for contemporary readers.”

Complete Stories is a deep dive into one of the great minds in American literature: morally serious, formally adventurous, and topically diverse. A reader could happily spend years wandering around in this book”

“For completists, this will be like a boxed set of a musician’s early work—Vonnegut’s Sun Studio sessions . . . . It’s fascinating to watch him work themes that would later animate his 14 novels and five books of nonfiction: the cruel stupidity of war, the dehumanizing dangers of technology, the distillation of American values into mere greed and selfishness. Longtime readers will recognize familiar Vonnegut characters and settings alongside pleas for peace and personal decency. Throughout, too, there runs Vonnegut’s 30-year attempt to find a narrative form to contain the horrors of Dresden, bits of his masterpiece “Slaughterhouse-Five” sprinkled like ash in stories such as “Great Day,” in which the author first uses time travel to write about war.”

“A sterling collection of the late Vonnegut's corpus of short fiction, with several unpublished pieces to balance better-known published and anthologized work.... Essential for Vonnegut completists, of course—and budding writers can always learn a thing or two from the sardonic master.”

Complete Stories will not easily fit in briefcases or backpacks. Stuff it into your overhead compartment at your own risk. That said, this collection is an indispensable and beautifully presented survey of the sweet, nostalgic, dark, brooding, wondrous themes that swirled on the wide palette of Kurt Vonnegut. . . . Complete Stories is a time-consuming commitment that rewards with celebrations of days long gone by and a doomed yet manageable future.”

blog — September 27

Fall 2017 Newsletter

Hey, it’s Banned Books Week. To celebrate, Seven Stories is releasing two of our most hotly anticipated titles of the year—Kurt Vonnegut’s Complete Stories and Khary Lazarre-White’s novel Passage. Both men write about excruciatingly painful things in ways that are sometimes alarming and somehow always ultimately satisfying. I’m sorry Kurt isn’t here to meet Khary. I know he would have understood right away that he represents a new kind of political and literary voice.
 
Passage brings you inside the mind and heart of a seventeen-year-old kid who happens to be black living in New York. The reader gets to walk in his shoes, and that’s not a comfortable proposition. Khary Lazarre-White sets the book in 1993, a quarter-century ago, partly because he himself was a seventeen-year-old kid who happened to be black living in New York at that time—so while Passage is purely a work of the imagination, it is also a book where everything in it down to the last detail is real and true and how it was—and partly to remind us how little things have improved for black youth in these last twenty-five years. In its advance review, Booklist calls Passage “a unique and haunting portrayal of a young black man considering his inheritance, and his destiny.” I hope you’ll have a chance to catch Khary at one of his dozen-plus events across the country in October and November.
 
In my thirty-plus years as a book publisher, I haven’t seen a cultural climate as narrow as now. Even as we celebrate diverse voices, they are fewer and farther between. Just when we need open minds, people are being persuaded to close their minds down—and never forget that the defining aspect of narrow-mindedness is thinking you aren’t narrow-minded at all! There is much to be encouraged by—including a resurgent independent publishing community, and hundreds of new independent bookstores across America. The curious and independent and open-minded are out in force, thankfully. But it isn’t as if we’re winning the war.
 
It’s funny but I’m sure there are two reasons we associate Kurt Vonnegut with Banned Books Week. One is that his books were and keep being banned. Slaughterhouse Five is very high on the list of most-banned books of all time. That’s of course the first reason, but the other is that whole idea of book banning and hence of something called Banned Books Week is just the kind of absurd theatre that belongs in a book by Kurt Vonnegut.
 
This year is the tenth anniversary of the Kurt’s death, which means that those of us who knew him well and loved him are starting to feel our close memories of him change and shift, because even memories have to change and shift like the oceans if they are going to stay vibrant and muscular and alive.
 
When I first met Kurt some thirty-three years or so ago, it was Nelson Algrenwho brought us together. Algren had died three years earlier, so strictly speaking it was Algren’s ghost, and his books of course, that first bonded us, and a very good and sturdy bridge-builder Algren’s ghost was. I didn’t understand it at first, but Kurt cared about what I was doing from the very beginning because I was bringing back into print all the books of his friend Nelson who had died recently. So I was Kurt’s friend long before I knew I was. I mean, for ten years I called him Mr. Vonnegut, while he called me Dan and sent me notes and left messages on my phone making sure things were all right with me and with Seven Stories. I finally figured out that he had always welcomed me as a friend, but it took me those ten years to realize it.
 
If you read some of the things Kurt wrote in response each time his books were banned, you can see how much he was hurt by it. In one case, after a school board in Drake, North Dakota, had its copies of Slaughterhouse Five burned in the school furnace along with other incendiary volumes, Kurt wrote an anguished letter to them saying among other things that they had the only copy and so if they wished to consign his letter too to the flames of the furnace they could do so knowing that then these words would be gone from the face of the earth forever. I think it was because Kurt believed so fervently in the redemptive power of literature and in the human ability to draw inspiration and solace from books that he could be so hurt whenever his books were banned. Almost as if he were saying, “No, no, no, this is all a misunderstanding. My books are good for people.” And indeed they are.
 
Complete Stories is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of book. No one has ever attempted to wrestle with and make sense of Kurt’s entire short-story output—nearly 1,000 pages. Birthing Complete Stories required enormous energy and commitment from its two indefatigable editors Dan Wakefield and Jerry Klinkowitz, as well as a supporting cast that included everyone at Seven Stories, a number of helpful individuals at Penguin Random House, in New York and in England, Kurt’s literary executors and his children. Of particular importance was the singular patience of literary co-executor Arthur Klebanoff. Hats off! Ahead of publication, Huff Post wrote that “Vonnegut’s writing explodes with disquieting warnings and lessons that continue to ring true for contemporary readers.” Virtuosic novelist and Vonnegut fan Matthew Sharpe read an advance copy and described the book as a “deep dive into one of the great minds in American literature,” adding “a reader could happily spend years wandering around in this book.” And in his foreword, Dave Eggers writes, “This collection pulses with relevance even today, and provides an almost shameful amount of unadulterated reading pleasure.” In its advance review, Booklist describes Complete Stories as “big in size and significance … In our time of dangerous ambiguity, Vonnegut’s clarity is restorative, his artistry and imagination affirming."
 
The Vonnegut I knew and loved was greatly talented and sometimes quite helpless, and I never saw him free of his helplessness or his talent. A lifelong smoker, he lived in his head and was saved over and over by certain ideas that mattered a great deal to him—among them the idea that we are not alone, even when we feel we are; the idea that we still do not understand the first thing about how time works; the idea that our country must not be allowed to abandon its principles with impunity; and the idea that it is important to savor the sweet moments in life when they come around, times to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” I would never claim I understood him, and I’ve never heard any of the people who knew him best make that claim. Certainly, he suffered, and each and every day challenged him greatly. And yet he believed in being kind, and funny, a “good date” to all those who chose to spend time reading him.
 
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Next week, we’ll bring you Project Censored’s Censored 2018, the year’s compilation of censored stories, this year featuring a new chapter by Ralph Nader and so much else. Top censored stories this year: 1) Widespread lead contamination, 2) Over six trillion dollars in unexplained US army spending, 3) Fake Al Qaeda videos commissioned by Pentagon, 4) Voter suppression in the 2016 presidential election, and 5) Big data and dark money behind the 2016 presidential election.
 
Also coming next week: Paul Auster’s A Life in Wordsa book-length conversation with I. B. Siegumfeldt that beautifully and, often dramatically, describes the genesis and meaning of each of Paul’s prose works. Siegumfeldt has her own opinions and spars with Paul at key moments in a book that reads at times like a very good and serious play and will be of great interest not only to Paul Auster fans, but also to anyone passionate about the writing life.
 
You can see Paul, together with Michael Wood, next Thursday evening at Barnes & Noble’s flagship store in Union Square in New York. You can find me in a public conversation with Dan Wakefield tomorrow, Thursday, in Kurt’s hometown of Indianapolis thanks to the good folks at the Vonnegut Memorial Library. For other key upcoming events, including Khary’s national tour dates, and everything else, visit sevenstories.com.
 
See you with the falling leaves in October,
Dan

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Born in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the few grandmasters of modern American letters. Called by the New York Times “the counterculture’s novelist,” his works guided a generation through the miasma of war and greed that was life in the U.S. in second half of the 20th century. After stints as a soldier, anthropology PhD candidate, technical writer for General Electric, and salesman at a Saab dealership, Vonnegut rose to prominence with the publication of Cat’s Cradle in 1963. Several modern classics, including Slaughterhouse-Five, soon followed. Never quite embraced by the stodgier arbiters of literary taste, Vonnegut was nonetheless beloved by millions of readers throughout the world. “Given who and what I am,” he once said, “it has been presumptuous of me to write so well.” Kurt Vonnegut died in New York in 2007.

Other books by Kurt Vonnegut