Hear Kurt Vonnegut Read Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle & Other Novels

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Many of us grade the books we read, but Kurt Von­negut grad­ed the books he wrote. Let­ters of Note once tweet­ed out a list of the thir­teen grades he applied to thir­teen of his nov­els, pref­aced with his dis­claimer that “the grades I hand out to myself do not place me in lit­er­ary his­to­ry. I am com­par­ing myself with myself.” With that out of the way, he gives 1969’s Slaugh­ter­house-Five, his sixth nov­el and best-known work, an A‑plus, and puts his fourth nov­el, Cat’s Cra­dle from 1963, in the very same league.

But you don’t have to take Vonnegut’s word for it. You can, of course, read these books your­self — or you can hear them read aloud, at least in abridged ver­sions, for free on Spo­ti­fy. What’s more, you can hear Von­negut, clear­ly not a man to dis­tance him­self from his fin­ished work, read them aloud in his own voice. The record­ings come from the label Caed­mon, pio­neers of the vinyl-album pro­to-audio­book begin­ning in the 1950s with a record of Dylan Thomas read­ing his poet­ry. Their Von­negut-read­ing-Von­negut releas­es came out through the 1970s.

You might as well begin by lis­ten­ing to the read­ings of Cat’s Cra­dle and Slaugh­ter­house-Five, Vonnegut’s “A‑plus” books. They also put out audio ver­sions of Wel­come to the Mon­key House, which the author grad­ed a bit more harsh­ly with a B‑minus, and Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons, which, with a C, he ranked down among what he con­sid­ered his less­er works. But that dis­dain doesn’t affect his char­ac­ter­is­tic rich­ly weary deliv­ery of the text, and besides, some of his fans love Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons best of all. Bonus: Sto­ries from Wel­come to the Mon­key House is also an option.

If you don’t yet have the free soft­ware need­ed to play these or oth­er record­ings on Spo­ti­fy, down­load it here, start lis­ten­ing to these clas­si­cal­ly satir­i­cal, inven­tive, and cyn­i­cal mid­cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can nov­els, and pre­pare to hand out some grades of your own.

Look­ing for free, pro­fes­sion­al­ly-read audio books from Audible.com? For exam­ple, John Malkovich read­ing Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons? Or James Fran­co read­ing Slaugh­ter­house-FiveHere’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free tri­al with Audible.com, you can down­load two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kurt Von­negut Maps Out the Uni­ver­sal Shapes of Our Favorite Sto­ries

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Sto­ry

Kurt Von­negut Explains “How to Write With Style”

Kurt Von­negut Urges Young Peo­ple to Make Art and “Make Your Soul Grow”

Hear Hem­ing­way Read Hem­ing­way, and Faulkn­er Read Faulkn­er (90 Min­utes of Clas­sic Audio)

Lis­ten to 60+ Free, High-Qual­i­ty Audio­Books of Clas­sic Lit­er­a­ture on Spo­ti­fy: Austen, Dick­ens, Tol­stoy & More

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Tod says:

    Wow. Abridged. Yes, this is the gen­uine Von­negut expe­ri­ence. I mean I guess it’s at least Von­negut’s actu­al voice but real­ly? I just know I would love an abridged ver­sion of Slaugh­ter­house 5 so much bet­ter than the full ver­sion. I just pray that this abridged ver­sion was because Von­negut did­n’t read the whole thing and not because some ass­hole cropped the record­ing.

  • Hannah Salvatore says:

    I want to buy the audio book of Von­negut read­ing Slaugh­ter­house Five etc. I can’t fig­ure out how to buy it. Also, what can I play it on. Is it down­loaded or is it a CD.

  • David Cory says:

    I tried lis­ten­ing to Slaugh­ter­house 5 on Spo­ti­fy. First, if you use the free ver­sion of Spo­ti­fy, you are rel­e­gat­ed to lis­ten­ing to shuf­fle play. OK, I signed up for the free tri­al of “pre­mi­um” Spo­ti­fy, which allows lis­ten­ing to the book in the prop­er order. How­ev­er, I found that parts 1–10 cov­er only part of the book. It’s not abridged–it’s trun­cat­ed. Sub­se­quent­ly, I can­celled the pre­mi­um Spo­ti­fy tri­al before they start­ed billing me month­ly. Hav­ing said that, I real­ly enjoyed lis­ten­ing to Von­negut read­ing (and singing) the ini­tial chap­ters of the book.

  • David Lane says:

    A friend’s par­ents had a cas­sette copy of Von­negut read­ing all the short sto­ries from “Wel­come to the Mon­key House.” I’ve searched for it in vain for years.

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