While Mortals Sleep

Kurt Vonnegut

I know, I know, another posthumous collection of work from Kurt Vonnegut. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of polluting the stream with someone’s “unpublished” work. But as one of the great satirists in the history of American literature, Vonnegut would be purifying the waters. Sure, the stories in his second posthumous collection aren’t the cream of his crop, but they’re still pretty darn good and garner plenty of laughs. The short story that gives the book its title illustrates how the beauty of the Christmas spirit can infect even the biggest, most cynical blowhard. “Hundred-Dollar Kisses” tells a story via the interrogation of a man arrested for assaulting a co-worker who had been looking at dirty magazines on the job. And, in the moving “Out, Brief Candle,” things don’t go as planned for a widow whose soul begins to stir while corresponding with a pen pal. The book begins with a foreword by Dave Eggers, who outlines the merits of the prolific author’s work. Eggers argues that short stories can contain the power, complexity and emotional oomph a longer work of literature can, and While Mortals Sleep is Exhibit A.