Jailbird. Kurt Vonnegut.


New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, 1979. Hardcover; 246 numbered pages, 8vo, original black cloth boards, gilt and silver lettering on the spine, gilt lettering on the front cover, blue endpapers, orange top page edges, pictorial $9.95 priced unclipped dust jacket. Designed by Joel Schick, jacket design by Paul Bacon, jacket photograph by Jill Krementz

Bacon, Pau

Stated: First Delacorte printing on the copyright page; First Edition | First Printing

BOOK CONDITION: NEAR FINE; top bottom corner lightly bumped bottom bumped, tight, internally fine | JACKET CONDITION: VERY GOOD+; ¼” razor like closed cut on front upper left near spine, minor edge/ corner wear, bit rubbed, front inner flap top has a bit of edge wear and a tiny corner crease near the bottom by code 0979, very small cease bottom right corner of back inner flap, price intact.

NOTE:  Bacon, Paul (illustrator).

About the book:

Jailbird is a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, originally published in 1979; it is regarded as Kurt Vonnegut's "Watergate novel." The plot involves elements that include the U.S. labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the dialectical back-and-forth of labor and management, Marxism and capitalism in the 1930's and 1940's, even up to the imperiousness of the Nixon administration. Jailbird revolves around Walter F. Starbuck, a man recently released from a minimum-security prison in Georgia after serving time for his comically small role in the Watergate Scandal. Jailbird is written as a standard memoir, revealing Starbuck's present situation, then coming full circle to tell the story of his first two days after being released from prison.

Through Walter F. Starbuck (and near-rambling biographical sketches of the various characters referenced in the novel) Jailbird concerns itself primarily with the history of the American labor movement, while exposing the more egregious flaws of corporate America, the American political system, the Red Scare/McCarthyistic histrionics of the late 1950's and early 1960's, and both capitalistic and communistic theory.

Jailbird, as a novel, introduced Vonnegut's fictitious mega-corporation, RAMJAC. Vonnegut humorously suggested that RAMJAC owned 19% of all businesses in the United States of America at its zenith. Throughout the novel, whenever a business is mentioned, Vonnegut frequently mentions RAMJAC in a parenthetical comment: such as, "Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (A RAMJAC Corporation)." RAMJAC may have been Vonnegut's response to large corporations and their television advertisements around the time of the novel's publication, in which they would routinely detail the many familiar brand names under their corporate umbrella.

Jailbird also features a brief cameo by Kilgore Trout, a recurring, fan-favorite Vonnegutian character known for writing science fiction novels and bizarre short stories. However, in this unique appearance, "Kilgore Trout" is revealed to be the pseudonym of a character in prison, deliberately contradicting the autobiographical details of Trout's life as delineated in both earlier and subsequent Vonnegut novels, as Vonnegut began to flirt with the unreliable narrator mechanism so en vogue by the late '70s and '80s.

The New York Times Book Review called Jailbird Vonnegut's "Sermon on the Mount".

'Vintage Vonnegut!' – Time magazine

'There are enough kernels in Jailbird to feed the entire population of an intellectually ravenous world.' – Los Angeles Times

'Jailbird definitely mounts up on angelic wings – in its speed, in its sparkle, and in its high-flying intent. A profoundly humane comedy.' – Chicago Tribune Book World

About the author:

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of nonfiction. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University, but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. He was deployed to Europe to fight in World War II, and captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister's three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband died in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively, but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat's Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut's magnum opus, however, was his immediately successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book's antiwar sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War, and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Bestseller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures, and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death (1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived, and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut's son Mark published a compilation of his father's unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut's writing and humor.


After spending much of two years at the writer's workshop at the University of Iowa, teaching one course each term, Vonnegut was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in Germany. By the time he won it, in March 1967, he was becoming a well-known writer. He used the funds to travel in Eastern Europe, including to Dresden, where he found many prominent buildings still in ruins. At the time of the bombing, Vonnegut had not appreciated the sheer scale of destruction in Dresden; his enlightenment came only slowly as information dribbled out, and based on early figures came to believe that 135,000 had died there.

Vonnegut had been writing about his war experiences at Dresden ever since he returned from the war, but had never been able to write anything acceptable to himself or his publishers—Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse-Five tells of his difficulties. Released in 1969, the novel rocketed Vonnegut to fame. It tells of the life of Billy Pilgrim, who like Vonnegut was born in 1922 and survives the bombing of Dresden. The story is told in a nonlinear fashion, with many of the story's climaxes—Billy's death in 1976, his kidnapping by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore nine years earlier, and the execution of Billy's friend Edgar Derby in the ashes of Dresden for stealing a teapot—disclosed in the story's first pages.In 1970, he was also a correspondent in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War. Slaughterhouse-Five received generally positive reviews, with Michael Crichton writing in The New Republic, "he writes about the most excruciatingly painful things. His novels have attacked our deepest fears of automation and the bomb, our deepest political guilts, our fiercest hatreds and loves. No one else writes books on these subjects; they are inaccessible to normal novelists. The book went immediately to the top of The New York Times Bestseller list. Vonnegut's earlier works had appealed strongly to many college students, and the anti war message of Slaughterhouse Five resonated with a generation marked by the Vietnam War. He later stated that the loss of confidence in government that Vietnam caused finally allowed for an honest conversation regarding events like Dresden.

After Slaughterhouse-Five was published, Vonnegut embraced the fame and financial security that attended its release. He was hailed as a hero of the burgeoning anti-war movement in the United States, was invited to speak at numerous rallies, and gave college commencement addresses around the country. In addition to lecturing on creative writing at Harvard University, Vonnegut taught at the City University of New York, where he was dubbed a Distinguished Professor of English Prose. He was later elected vice president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and given honorary degrees by, among others, Indiana University and Bennington College. Vonnegut also wrote a play called Happy Birthday, Wanda June, which opened on October 7, 1970 at New York's Theatre de Lys. Receiving mixed reviews, it closed on March 14, 1971. In 1972, Universal Pictures adapted Slaughterhouse-Five into a film which the author said was "flawless".

Meanwhile, Vonnegut's personal life was disintegrating. His wife Jane had embraced Christianity, which was contrary to Vonnegut's atheistic beliefs, and with five of their six children having left home, Vonnegut said the two were forced to find "other sorts of seemingly important work to do." The couple battled over their differing beliefs until Vonnegut moved from their Cape Cod home to New York in 1971. Vonnegut called the disagreements "painful", and said the resulting split was a "terrible, unavoidable accident that we were ill-equipped to understand." The couple divorced and they remained friends until Jane's death in late 1986. Beyond his marriage, he was deeply affected when his son Mark suffered a mental breakdown in 1972, which exacerbated Vonnegut's chronic depression, and led him to take Ritalin. When he stopped taking the drug in the mid-1970s, he began to see a psychologist weekly.

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country, 2005
Vonnegut's difficulties materialized in numerous ways; most distinctly though, was the painfully slow progress he was making on his next novel, the darkly comical Breakfast of Champions. In 1971, Vonnegut stopped writing the novel altogether. When it was finally released in 1973, it was panned critically. In Thomas S. Hischak's book American Literature on Stage and Screen, Breakfast of Champions was called "funny and outlandish", but reviewers noted that it "lacks substance and seems to be an exercise in literary playfulness." Vonnegut's 1976 novel Slapstick, which meditates on the relationship between him and his sister (Alice), met a similar fate. In The New York Times's review of Slapstick, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said Vonnegut "seems to be putting less effort into [storytelling] than ever before", and that "it still seems as if he has given up storytelling after all." At times, Vonnegut was disgruntled by the personal nature of his detractors' complaints.

In 1979, Vonnegut married Jill Krementz, a photographer whom he met while she was working on a series about writers in the early 1970s. With Jill, he adopted a daughter, Lily, when the baby was three days old. In subsequent years, his popularity resurged as he published several satirical books, including Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galápagos (1985), Bluebeard (1987), and Hocus Pocus (1990). In 1986, Vonnegut was seen by a younger generation when he played himself in Rodney Dangerfield's film Back to School. The last of Vonnegut's fourteen novels, Timequake (1997), was, as University of Detroit history professor and Vonnegut biographer Gregory Sumner said, "a reflection of an aging man facing mortality and testimony to an embattled faith in the resilience of human awareness and agency." Vonnegut's final book, a collection of essays entitled A Man Without a Country (2005), became a bestseller

Tally, writing in 2013, suggests that Vonnegut has only recently become the subject of serious study rather than fan adulation, and much is yet to be written about him. "The time for scholars to say 'Here's why Vonnegut is worth reading' has definitively ended, thank goodness. We know he's worth reading. Now tell us things we don't know." Todd F. Davis notes that Vonnegut's work is kept alive by his loyal readers, who have "significant influence as they continue to purchase Vonnegut's work, passing it on to subsequent generations and keeping his entire canon in print—an impressive list of more than twenty books that [Dell Publishing] has continued to refurbish and hawk with new cover designs." Donald E. Morse notes that Vonnegut, "is now firmly, if somewhat controversially, ensconced in the American and world literary canon as well as in high school, college and graduate curricula". Tally writes of Vonnegut's work:

Vonnegut's 14 novels, while each does its own thing, together are nevertheless experiments in the same overall project. Experimenting with the form of the American novel itself, Vonnegut engages in a broadly modernist attempt to apprehend and depict the fragmented, unstable, and distressing bizarreries of postmodern American experience ... That he does not actually succeed in representing the shifting multiplicities of that social experience is beside the point. What matters is the attempt, and the recognition that ... we must try to map this unstable and perilous terrain, even if we know in advance that our efforts are doomed.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Vonnegut posthumously in 2015


Player Piano (1952)
The Sirens of Titan (1959)
Mother Night (1961)
Cat's Cradle (1963)
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)
Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
Breakfast of Champions (1973)
Slapstick (1976)
Jailbird (1979)
Deadeye Dick (1982)
Galápagos (1985)
Bluebeard (1987)
Hocus Pocus (1990)
Timequake (1997)

Canary in a Cathouse (1961)
Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)
Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1970)
Between Time and Timbuktu (1972)
Sun Moon Star (1980)
Bagombo Snuff Box (1997)
God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (1999)
Armageddon in Retrospect (2008) Short stories and essays
Look at the Birdie (2009)
While Mortals Sleep (2011)
We Are What We Pretend to Be (2012)
Sucker's Portfolio (2013)

Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons (1974)
Palm Sunday (1981)
Nothing Is Lost Save Honor: Two Essays (1984)
Fates Worse Than Death (1991)
A Man Without a Country (2005)[58]
Kurt Vonnegut: The Cornell Sun Years 1941–1943 (2012)
If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young (2013)
Vonnegut by the Dozen (2013)
Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (2014)

**Information gathered from places such as Wikipedia and GoodReads.**

Item #57

ISBN: 9780440054498

Price: $50.00

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