Authors can now look on the bright side. Wait until you are dead before you get published. OK, Vonnegut was published in his lifetime, but this novella did not meet with such success. Until now. Here it is from Rosetta Books for $1.99. So it goes.
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Written to be sold under the pseudonym of “Mark Harvey”, this 20,000 word novella was never published in Vonnegut’s lifetime. It appears (from the address which appears on the manuscript, a suburb of Schenectady, New York and from the style and slant) to have been written in the late 1940s. Vonnegut was working in public relations for General Electric and used pseudonyms to protect himself from the charge of moonlighting. Vonnegut was trying to sell to the so-called slick magazines of the time like The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s while resisting the lure of science fiction--a tension throughout his professional career.
Basic Training is a bitter, profoundly disenchanted story which satirizes the military, authoritarianism, gender relationships, parenthood and most of the assumed mid-century myths of the family. Haley Brandon, the adolescent protagonist, comes to the farm of his relative, the old crazy who insists upon being called The General, to learn to be a straight-shooting American. Haley’s only means of survival will lead him to unflagging defiance of the General’s deranged (but oh so American, oh so military) values.