Celebrating Banned Book Week with Kurt Vonnegut: “Poor Little Rich Town”

Newell Cady had the polish, the wealth, the influence, and the middle-aged good looks of an idealized Julius Caesar. Most of all, though, Cady had know-how, know-how of a priceless variety that caused large manufacturing concerns to bid for his services like dying sultans offering half their kingdoms for a cure.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s “Poor Little Rich Town”, we have another story with real estate although it’s more in the background than in “Any Reasonably Offer”.  I’m not sure why Vonnegut is choosing real estate as a topic but he does it really well in another story from Bagombo Snuff Box, “The Package”.  I would put it several notches above these two other stories.  But back to “Poor Little Rich Town”.

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Newell Cady has taken a job with Federal Aparatus Corporation (a vintage Vonnegut name) and proceeds to put into place all kinds of process-improvements and earns raves from his superiors for stamping out inefficiencies.  Outside of work, Newell buys a house in Spruce Falls, the little town close by, where he meets neighbors, postal workers, firemen, etc. Here, he also insists on making things more efficient, including the annual Hobby Show.  Cady begins to realize that not all aspects of life welcome extreme efficiency nor do they benefit from it.

Maybe the point Vonnegut is trying to make is that not everything needs to have a point or a goal or some sort of achievement to be worthy of admiration.

I don’t think Vonnegut’s writing always fits into specific genres or are structured using a certain formula. Many of Vonnegut’s stories are written from what I would call simply the joy of creating. This joy doesn’t always go hand in hand with efficiency.

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