Posted in Short Stories

Celebrating Banned Book Week with Kurt Vonnegut: “Any Reasonable Offer”

It’s coming up on Banned Book Week for 2015 and this year, to honor the freedom I have to read what I want to read, I am reading the remaining short stories in Kurt Vonnegut’s collection Bagombo Snuff Box.  I began this collection back in 2012 and have slowly posted about each story that I’ve read.  Since Vonnegut is one of my favorite advocates of free speech and freedom of expression, I figured finishing up these stories would be a good way to celebrate this upcoming week.  So here is the first of ten posts.

Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

As I’ve said numerous times on this blog (but it’s been a while so I’ll say it again), Vonnegut is known for his biting satire and social commentary in which it is not uncommon for him to use material and language that could be considered offensive by some; however, so many of his short stories have such a playful innocence, a twinkle-in-his-eye kind of fun and even sometimes what I might consider a “cuteness” that I find myself wondering how he could be considered so subversive and dangerous that various governing bodies feel the need to ban or censor his work.

In this first story, “Any Reasonable Offer”, a real estate agent bemoans his job and the people who use his services only to go behind his back to avoid paying commission:

…it occurred to me there isn’t any profession – or racket, or whatever – that takes more of a beating from its clients than real estate. If you stand still, they club you. If you run, they shoot.

The agent narrates the story and as with many of Vonnegut’s stories, the narrator is unnamed and the reader gets at least a slight impression that the narrator is a fictional verison of Vonnegut, himself.  So much of Vonnegut’s work revolves around the absurdities of life and these aren’t lost on the realtor in this story. He attempts to sell a mansion to what appears to be a wealthy couple only to find that not all is as it seems with them.  I enjoyed the ending where the realtor takes an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” response to the absurd.

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