Rambling about books

Book review: Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut

Book cover from Goodreads

This short-story collection Welcome to the Monkey House (1968) incorporates almost completely Vonnegut’s 1961 “Canary in a Cathouse,” which appeared within a few months of Slaughterhouse-Five and capitalized upon that breakthrough novel and the enormous attention it suddenly brought.

Drawn from both specialized science fiction magazines and the big-circulation general magazines which Vonnegut had been one of the few science writers to sell, the collection includes some of his most accomplished work from 1950 to 1968. The title story may be his most famous—a diabolical government asserts control through compulsory technology removing orgasm from sex—but Vonnegut’s bitterness and wit, not in his earlier work as poisonous or unshielded as it later became, is well demonstrated. (Goodreads)

I have been somewhat interested in reading Kurt Vonnegut from five years ago, but I never quite get my hands around it. I was not brave enough to actually pick any book at random or blatantly believe what the internet told me about which Vonnegut’s work I should read. I just don’t want to be picking the wrong book and end up hating the author altogether. Then last year, I asked some of my friends from this book club that I was in, which book I should buy now that I was planning to splurge my last remaining scholarship money on books. One of those very sweet souls recommend Welcome to the Monkey House;  I thought reading Vonnegut’s much shorter works might have given me a better insight, and so begins my journey into the works of Kurt Vonnegut.

That aside, I think that this collection of Vonnegut’s short stories, for lack of better words, are amusing indeed. I have to admit that the first few short stories were pretty odd, to say the least, I almost gave up the book thinking that maybe (just maybe) Vonnegut is not my cup of tea. But I’m glad I had kept on reading, because at the end of the day my overall experience of this book was like a roller coaster ride; there was an up, a down, a flat and a somewhat lopsided feel to it. Take for instance Welcome to the Monkey House which became the title of this book. Although I get that the point of the story was to be satirical and might be a bit sinister as to how the world would become in the future amidst the growing number of population in major countries, I can’t help but feel disgusted at how the story turns out.

I don’t know if by explaining why I was disgusted by the story counts as being spoiling the story for those who haven’t read it (so, if by any chance you haven’t read the story and is planning to read it, do skip this rambling altogether for your own sake), but here’s what I think. At some part of the story there was a part where  a sexual intercourse were performed without the full consent of one of the party involved, and this disgust me so much. This to me feels like a kind of rape, and it disgust me that the perpetrator in the story feels like he is doing more good than damage with making the woman have sex with him. To be completely honest, what actually happens in the story is not as simple as I made it out to be, you need to actually read the story to understand what I meant, but that aside I find it a bit sinister that one person is doing something to another person without their full consent thinking that it was for the other person’s benefits. People should be able to decided what’s best for themselves as oppose of having another person decides for them. But, hey, maybe I shouldn’t take the story too seriously.

But, not all is lost. Some of the stories that I quite enjoyed and quite redeem my awful experience with Welcome to the Monkey House and Long Walk to Forever (which to my surprise was actually written by Vonnegut in honouring the marriage that worked, but I find annoying and against my belief as a monogamists) had finally emerged in the forms of The Foster Portfolio, Miss Temptation, and Deer in the Works which had a surprising ending that I didn’t see it coming but somehow resonates the most to me. On that note, I think most twenty and thirty something should at least give a Deer in the Works a try when jobs feels like a dead end road.

From what I understand Kurt Vonnegut is a science fiction writer, amongst being known as a satirist also, and you can see that within this book there are several strong contenders in science fiction genre, namely Report on the Barnhouse EffectThe Euphio Question which begs the question about how important happiness is if everything else becomes unimportant, and my personal quirky favourite Unready to Wear which would totally be interesting had someone is interested in adapting it into a movie. But, above all, two particular stories struck me the most that I shed tears when I finished reading it, let’s give a round of applause for The Manned Missiles and EPICAC. The former will break your heart into pieces, while the latter will leave you sobbing in the corner; so if you’re into heart breaking and gut wrenching short stories, you can always give the two stories a try.

Bottom line is, if you’re venturing into Kurt Vonnegut for the first time, like I am, I suggest to give this book a try. And if you’re into short stories, and you enjoy a diverse choice of genre in one single book, you should also give this book a try; head’s up, the whole basic theme of the stories are science fiction, but with different twists in each story.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️☆

Title: Welcome to the Monkey House

Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Humour, Science Fiction, Short Stories

Goodreads link

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