16 down, 25 to go… “Welcome to the Monkey House” by Kurt Vonnegut

(I love this book cover too, by the way.  What is that – a 54-long!?)

I’ve settled into an enjoyable little routine of late. As fate would have it, I live on the opposite side of town from where I work. I have a 20+ mile commute each day, most of it on Indianapolis’s encircling I-465 interstate. Now, if I leave the house to get to work close to my normal hour (8 a.m.) traffic is heavy and thus the commute tedious and stressful (not to mention more time consuming). So, my normal custom is to drive up early, then enjoy a cup of coffee at a shop near my office while reading the paper, checking emails, etc. Lately though, I’ve started my day even earlier, and added reading a Vonnegut short story and maybe a few favorite blogs as well.

Somedays I even have time to write a blog post, something I’m trying to be more consistent about doing. Anyway, this morning I knocked off the 16th of Vonnegut’s 25 stories in this collection. Today’s treat was “The Euphio Question” in which three men “discover peace of mind.” Apparently through some vague, unknown process, the hissing static sound emanating from regions of space where there are no known celestial objects (maybe this is the CBR? Cosmic Background Radiation being described?) had, when amplified, an euphoric effect on those who heard it. One of the three men is an unapologetic capitalist and immediately begins thinking of ways to cash in on this effect, many of which involve using the effect to dull the senses and reason of those he is selling something to.

An experiment is performed (one of the three men is a scientist) after a consumer-sized box unit is created – with the idea of eventual wholesale. (Vonnegut has to be lampooning television a bit here; the story was written in 1951) Of course the experiment goes wrong (although I guess that depends on one’s viewpoint) and the machine stays on for days, leaving those within range dull and senseless ( but also euphoric!). This is enough to convince all but the unscrupulous capitalist to give up the idea, and one of the men smashes the device with a poker from the fireplace.

All in all a great little story. Has anyone else “out there” read it? What did you think of it?

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