Kurt Vonnegut: Mnemonics

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This is Week 18 of my Deal Me In 2014 Project and this post will be short and sweet – just like Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Mnemonics”.  My Deal Me In 2014 list can be seen here.  DMI is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

In the story, Alfred Moorehead utilizes a unique system in which he remembers his boss’s list of things to do by associating each item with a female movie star.  As Vonnegut wrote this sometime around 1950 (I’m taking a stab at the year, here), Moorehead’s “leading ladies” are the likes of Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Ava Gardner, and Lana Turner.  His system works beautifully until he tries it on a list that is unusually long.  His boss, unusually named Ralph L. Thriller, prefers that he use a pencil; however, Alfred prefers his leading ladies which threaten to vanish inside his mind before the list is completed.

When reading Vonnegut’s short stories, I’m constantly surprised at how light, fun and innocent many of them can be.  The word that keeps popping into my mind to describe “Mnemonics” is “cute”.  For some reason that sounds condescending and derogatory to a Vonnegut story, but I’ve come to appreciate all aspects of his work – the satirical, the sarcastic, the controversial, the banned and the cute.

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7 responses to “Kurt Vonnegut: Mnemonics

  1. Pingback: Deal Me In – Week 18 Wrap Up | Bibliophilopolis

  2. This does sound cute, Dale, and I mean that as a compliment to the author. I definitely think Vonnegut had a space inside himself for that modifier.

    On a side note, “The Sarcastic, the Banned and the Cute” is just calling out to be the title of a Western-pastiche anime. 😉

    • Vonnegut’s son once said that his dad was an optimist trying to be a pessimist. The more of his work that I read, the more that seems like a very accurate description of Vonnegut. Most of his short stories seem to be written with a “twinkle” in his eye.

      A western anime title!?!? I hadn’t thought of that!

    • If anything in the story was cynical, it was Vonnegut’s attitude toward the business seminar that taught Alfred how to use mnemonics. But you are right, the device only went a “little wrong”. In the end, it worked.

  3. I read this a couple years ago, but it’s one of the few KV stories hat didn’t make a lasting Impression on me. Most of the titles in Bagombo Snuff Box bring back memories of the story for me, but its odd that one that doesn’t is entitled Mnemonics! 🙂

    • It’s probably one of the shorter stories in the collection at only four pages. And in the grand scheme of things, the “wow” factor was not very big. It’s worth reading for a little entertainment.

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