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THE SIRENS OF TITAN "Tell me one good thing you ever did In your Iife." - Winston Niles Rumfoord In the beginning, God. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, , Dell edition, in English. Vonnegut's second novel, The Sirens of Titan, published seven years after Player Piano, has received mixed response from critics. According to William Allen.


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Editorial Reviews. Review. “[Kurt Vonnegut's] best book He dares not only ask the ultimate The Sirens of Titan: A Novel - site edition by Kurt Vonnegut. The Sirens of Titan (), Vonnegut's second novel, was on the Hugo final ballot along with Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and lost in what Harlan Ellison. [Kurt Vonnegut's] best book He dares not only ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it.”—Esquire.

The Tralfamadorians were originally developed by super-beings who built them to allow themselves to search for a meaning to their lives. Unable to achieve this task, they eventually asked the machines to do it for them, and upon knowing that they could not be said to have any purpose at all, the precursor race decided to eradicate itself, just to realize that they were not even very good at this, so they used the Tralfamadorians instead to complete the annihilation of their race.

In God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater , Tralfamadore is a hypothetical foreign planet, used in a purely rhetorical sense as part of a thought exercise. In Hocus Pocus , Tralfamadore is the planet nearest to a meeting place of ancient multi-dimensional beings who supposedly control all aspects of human life, including social affairs and politics. Unlike humans, the Tralfamadorians have too much of a sense of humor to be affected by the beings. The exploits of the multi-dimensional beings are chronicled in The Protocols of the Elders of Tralfamadore a title which parodies The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , which is published serially in a pornographic magazine called Black Garterbelt.

Though the author is never specified, the media in which it is published suggests that it may be Kilgore Trout. Since it was foreordained that he and Beatrice were to come together again, to produce a child named Chrono, Constant was under no compunction to seek and woo her, to send her so much as a get-well card.

He could go about his business, he thought, and the haughty Beatrice would have to damn well come to him — like any other bimbo. He was laughing when he put on his dark glasses and false beard and let himself out through the little iron door in the wall. The limousine was back, and so was the crowd. The police held open a narrow path to the limousine door. Constant scuttled down it, reached the limousine. The path closed like the Red Sea behind the Children of Israel.

The cries of the crowd, taken together, were a collective cry of indignation and pain. The crowd, having been promised nothing, felt cheated, having received nothing. Men and boys began to rock Constant's limousine. The chauffeur put the limousine in gear, made it creep through the sea of raging flesh.

A bald man made an attempt on Constant's life with a hot dog, stabbed at the window glass with it, splayed the bun, broke the frankfurter — left a sickly sunburst of mustard and relish. She showed him that her two upper front teeth were false.

She let those two front teeth fall out of place. She shrieked like a witch. A boy climbed on the hood, blocking the chauffeur's view. He ripped off the windshield wipers, threw them to the crowd. It took the limousine three-quarters of an hour to reach a fringe of the crowd. And on the fringe were not the lunatics but the nearly sane. Only on the fringe did the shouts become coherent. She showed her two fine children to Constant.

Another woman told Constant what it was the crowd felt it had a right to. The riot, then, was an exercise in science and theology — a seeking after clues by the living as to what life was all about. The chauffeur, seeing at last a clear road before him, pressed the accelerator to the floor.

The limousine zoomed away. A huge billboard flashed by. It complains so. By the same token, though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic.

The purpose of Malachi Constant's switch from the limousine to the helicopter was to prevent anyone's following him, to prevent anyone's discovering who the bearded and bespectacled visitor to the Rumfoord estate had been. No one knew where Constant was. Neither the chauffeur nor the pilot knew the true identity of their passenger.

Constant was Mr. Jonah K. Rowley to both. Not once in the midst of the violence had he expected to be hurt. In his own words he recognized Rumfoord's phrasing — even a little of Rumfoord's aristocratic yodel. This comment interested Constant, for it described well his attitude in the midst of the mob. He took the comment at first as an analogy — as a poetic description of his mood.

A man who had a guardian angel would certainly have felt just as Constant had — "Yes, suh! Until that moment of truth, Constant had looked upon his Newport adventure as one more drug-induced hallucination — as one more peyotl party — vivid, novel, entertaining, and of no consequence whatsoever.

The little door had been a dreamy touch. Malachi Constant broke into a cold sweat. His knees threatened to buckle and his eyelids came unhinged. He was finally understanding that every bit of it had been real! He had been calm in the midst of the mob because he knew he Wasn't going to die on Earth.

Something was looking out for him, all right. And whatever it was, it was saving his skin for — Constant quaked as he counted on his fingers the points of interest on the itinerary Rumfoord had promised him. Then Mercury. Then Earth again. Then Titan. Since the itinerary ended on Titan, presumably that was where Malachi Constant was going to die. He was going to die there! What had Rumfoord been so cheerful about?

Constant shuffled over to the helicopter, rocked the great, ramshackle bird as he climbed inside. Rowley," said the pilot. He was looking through the plastic dome of the cockpit cover — looking up into the evening sky.

He was wondering if there could possibly be eyes up there, eyes that could see everything he did. And if there were eyes up there, and they wanted him to do certain things, go certain places — how could they make him? Oh God — but it looked thin and cold up there! Fifty-nine days later, Winston Niles Rumfoord and his loyal dog Kazak materialized again.

A lot had happened since their last visit.

For one thing, Malachi Constant had sold out all his holdings in Galactic Spacecraft, the corporation that had the custody of the great rocket ship called The Whale. He had done this to destroy every connection between himself and the only known means of getting to Mars. He had put the proceeds of the sale into MoonMist Tobacco. For another thing, Beatrice Rumfoord had liquidated her diversified portfolio of securities, and had put the proceeds into shares of Galactic Spacecraft, intending thereby to get a leather-lunged voice in whatever was done with The Whale.

For another thing, Malachi Constant had taken to writing Beatrice Rumford offensive letters, in order to keep her away — in order to make himself absolutely and permanently intolerable to her. To see one of these letters was to see them all. The most recent one went like this, written on stationery of Magnum Opus, Inc. Hello from sunny California, Space Baby! Gee, I am sure looking forward to jazzing a highclass dame like you under the twin moons of Mars.

You're the only kind of dame I never had, and I'll bet your kind is the greatest. Love and kisses for a starter. For another thing, Beatrice had bought a capsule of cyanide — more deadly, surely, than Cleopatra's asp.

It was Beatrice's intention to swallow it if ever she had to share so much as the same time zone with Malachi Constant. For another thing, the stock market had crashed, wiping out Beatrice Rumford, among others. The stock had fallen to 6 in ten trading sessions, and now lay there, trembling fractional points. Since Beatrice had bought on margin as well as for cash, she had lost everything, including her Newport home. She had nothing left but her clothes, her good name, and her finishing school education.

For another thing, Malachi Constant had thrown a party two days after returning to Hollywood — and only now, fifty-six days later, was it petering out. For another thing, a genuinely bearded young man named Martin Koradubian had identified himself as the bearded stranger who had been invited into the Rumford estate to see a materialization.

He was a repairer of solar watches in Boston, and a charming liar. A magazine had bought his story for three thousand dollars, Sitting in Skip's Museum under the spiral staircase, Winston Niles Rumfoord read Koradubian's magazine story with delight and admiration.

Koradubian claimed in his story that Rumfoord had told him about the year Ten Million A. In the year Ten Million, according to Koradubian, there would be a tremendous housecleaning. All records relating to the period between the death of Christ and the year One Million A. This would be done, said Koradubian, because museums and archives would be crowding the living right off the earth.

The million-year period to which the burned junk related would be summed up in history books in one sentence, according to Koradubian: Following the death of Jesus Christ, there was a period of readjustment that lasted for approximately one million years.

Winston Niles Rumfoord laughed and laid Koradubian's article aside. Rumford loved nothing more than a thumping good fraud. A merry time for cracking open cornerstones and digging up time capsules.

There was someone else in Skip's Museum with him. The other person was his wife Beatrice. Beatrice was sitting in the facing wing chair. She had come downstairs to ask her husband's help in a time of great need. Rumfoord blandly changed the subject. Beatrice, already ghostly in a white peignoir, turned the color of lead. What's your guess? From between Beatrice's clenched teeth came a frail, keen, sustained note so high as to be almost above the range of the human ear.

The sound bore the same ghastly promise as the whistle of fins on a falling bomb. Then the explosion came.

Beatrice capsized her chair, attacked the skeleton, threw it crashing into a corner. She cleaned off the shelves of Skip's Museum, bouncing specimens off the walls, trampling them on the floor. Rumfoord was flabbergasted.

Just read my mind! I thought that might sort of give you more perspective about your own problems. No chimpanzee husband would try to make his wife into a space whore for Malachi Constant of Hollywood, California! She wagged her head tiredly. So the end is as much a mystery to me as to you. It is always pitiful when any human being falls into a condition hardly more respectable than that of an animal.

How much more pitiful it is when the person who falls has had all the advantages! Malachi Constant lay in the wide gutter of his kidney-shaped swimming pool, sleeping the sleep of a drunkard. There was a quarter of an inch of warm water in the gutter. Constant was fully dressed in blue-green evening shorts and a dinner jacket of gold brocade. His clothes were soaked, He was all alone. The pool had once been covered uniformly by an undulating blanket of gardenias.

But a persistent morning breeze had moved the blooms to one end of the pool, as though folding a blanket to the foot of a bed. In folding back the blanket, the breeze revealed a pool bottom paved with broken glass, cherries, twists of lemon peel, peyotl buttons, slices of orange, stuffed olives, sour onions, a television set, a hypodermic syringe, and the ruins of a white grand piano.

Cigar butts and cigarette butts, some of them marijuana, littered the surface.

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The swimming pool looked less like a facility for sport than like a punchbowl in hell. One of Constant's arms dangled in the pool itself. From the wrist underwater came the glint of his solar watch. The watch had stopped. The telephone's chimes persisted.

Constant mumbled but did not move. The chimes stopped. Then, after twenty seconds, the chimes began again. Constant groaned, sat up, groaned.

From the inside of the house came a brisk, efficient sound, high heels on a tile floor. A ravishing, brassy blond woman crossed from the house to the phone booth, giving Constant a look of haughty contempt. She was chewing gum. Yah — he's awake. She had a voice like a grackle. She got her answer. Fern of Magnum Opus," she said. The woman told Fern, got another message to relay to Constant.

Vonnegut and the Metaphor of Science Fiction: The Sirens of Titan

Fern quitting? She smiled hatefully. He says you better come in and talk to him before he goes home. It so happens I want something very much. I want a number of things very much.

I would like to find out if a chrono-synclastic infundibula kills love in a dog the way it kills love in a man. Is that what you're saying? All I can say is that my failure to warn you about the stock-market crash is as much a part of the natural order as Halley's Comet — and it makes an equal amount of sense to rage against either one.

Rumfoord retreated into his magazine again. The magazine opened naturally to the center spread, which was a color ad for MoonMist Cigarettes. MoonMist Tobacco, Ltd. Pleasure in Depth! The picture that went with it was the picture of the three sirens of Titan. There they were — the white girl, the golden girl, and the brown girl.

The fingers of the golden girl were fortuitously spread as they rested on her left breast, permitting an artist to paint in a MoonMist Cigarette between two of them.

The smoke from her cigarette passed beneath the nostrils of the brown and white girls, and their space-annihilating concupiscence seemed centered on mentholated smoke alone.

Rumfoord had known that Constant would try to debase the picture by using it in commerce. Constant's father had done a similar thing when he found he could not download Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" at any price. The old man had punished Mona Lisa by having her used in an advertising campaign for suppositories. It was the free-enterprise way of handling beauty that threatened to get the upper hand.

Rumfoord made a buzzing sound on his lips, which was a sound he made when he approached compassion. The compassion he approached was for Malachi Constant, who was having a far worse time of it than Beatrice. Her arms were folded, and Rumfoord, reading her mind, knew that she thought of her sharp, projected elbows as bullfighter's swords. If you had one shred of concern for me, couldn't you tell me exactly how Malachi Constant of Hollywood is going to try to trick me into going to Mars, so I could outwit him?

Sure," he said, "I can see the whole roller coaster you're on. And sure — I could give you a piece of paper that would tell you about every dip and turn, warn you about every bogeyman that was going to pop out at you in the tunnels. But that wouldn't help you any. I just know what it's shaped like. Billions of dollars are going to be spent on unmanned space ships, just to make work. The Whale will be renamed The Rumfoord in my honor, will be loaded with organ-grinder monkeys, and will be fired in the general direction of Mars.

You and Constant will both take part in the ceremonies. You will go on board for a ceremonial inspection, and a faulty switch will send you on your way with the monkeys. Some of the President's comments at the time bear repeating — and it should be remembered that the President gave the word "progress" a special flavor by pronouncing it prog-erse.

He also flavored the words "chair" and "warehouse," pronouncing them cheer and wirehouse. We have been turned back by space once, but it isn't the American way to take no for an answer where progerse is concerned. President, the wirehouses are all full of automobiles and airplanes and kitchen appliances and various other products,' and they say, 'Oh, Mr. President, there is nothing more that anybody wants the factories to make because everybody already has two, three, and four of everything.

And I said to him, 'In the next twenty years, the population of the world is going to double, and all those billions of new people are going to need things to sit down on, so you just hang on to those cheers. Meanwhile, why don't you forget about those cheers in the wirehouse and think about progerse in space?

We could build and fire rockets forever, and never fill up space and never learn all there is to know about it. President, what about the chrono-synclastic infundibula and what about this and what about that? There wouldn't be the telephone or anything. And besides,' I tell them and I tell you and I tell everybody, 'we don't have to put people in the rocket ships.

We will use the lower animals only. Malachi Constant of Hollywood, California, came out of the rhinestone phone booth cold sober. His eyes felt like cinders. He was positive that he had never seen the beautiful blond woman before. He asked her one of the standard questions for times of violent change. During the fifty-six-day party he had reached a point where he could draw almost nothing else. His aim had been to make himself unworthy of any destiny — incapable of any mission — far too ill to travel.

He had succeeded to a shocking degree. Then, when it finally went in, you got this big crying jag. That was something new. How your father never even threw a ball to you once — any kind of ball. Half the time nobody could understand you, but every time somebody could understand you, it was about how there never was any kind of ball. Then you said you'd give an oil well to any woman who'd come up to you and shake your hand and say real loud, so everybody could hear, 'I'm a whore, just like your mother was.

You said everybody else was just waiting for you to fall asleep, so they could put you on a rocket ship and shoot you at Mars. Then you made everybody go home but me. Servants and everybody. You better go down to the office and find out what the hell is going on, on account of my boyfriend is a gangster, and he'll kill you if I tell him you aren't providing for me right. My mother was a whore and my father never came home, either — but we were poor besides.

At least you had billions of dollars. She stood on the threshold of Skip's Museum, facing the corridor. Down the corridor came the sound of the butler's voice. The butler was standing in the front doorway, calling to Kazak, the hound of space. We were summering on Cape Cod, and we drove over to an amusement park outside of Fall River. He was going to ride with me.

Her eyes glittered, and she nodded abruptly. She stalked out of Skip's Museum, went to the foyer to await the arrival of Kazak.

In a moment, she felt the electric presence of her husband behind her. If it seems crude of me not to hate the idea of your pairing off with Constant, it's only an humble admission on my part that he's going to make you a far better husband than I ever was or will be. Look forward to having nothing but the dignity and intelligence and tenderness that God gave you — look forward to taking those materials and nothing else, and making something exquisite with them.

He was becoming insubstantial. Some day on Titan, it will be revealed to you just how ruthlessly I've been used, and by whom, and to what disgustingly paltry ends.

He landed skidding on the polished floor. He ran in place, trying to make a right-angle turn in Beatrice's direction. Faster and faster he ran, and still he could get no traction. He became translucent. He began to shrink, to fizz crazily on the foyer floor like a ping-pong ball in a frying pan Then he disappeared. There was no dog any more. Without looking behind, Beatrice knew that her husband had disappeared, too. She snapped her fingers, as though to attract a dog.

Her fingers were too weak to make a sound. Just fall through the hole in a privy and come out smelling like a rose. It had a thirty-one-story building for its home. While Magnum Opus owned the whole building, it used only the top three floors, renting out the rest to corporations it controlled. Some of these corporations, having been sold recently by Magnum Opus, were moving out.

Others, having been bought recently by Magnum Opus, were moving in. The Magnum Opus Building was a slender, prismatic, twelve-sided shaft, faced on all twelve sides with blue-green glass that shaded to rose at the base. The twelve sides were said by the architect to represent the twelve great religions of the world. So far, no one had asked the architect to name them.

That was lucky, because he couldn't have done it. There was a private heliport on top. The shadow and flutter of Constant's helicopter settling to the heliport seemed to many of the people below to be like the shadow and flutter of the Bright Angel of Death. It seemed that way because of the stock-market crash, because money and jobs were so scarce — And it seemed especially that way to them because the things that had crashed the hardest, that had pulled everything down with them, were the enterprises of Malachi Constant.

Constant was flying his own helicopter, since all his servants had quit the night before. Constant was flying it badly. He set it down with a crash that sent shivers through the building. He was arriving for a conference with Ransom K.

Fern, President of Magnum Opus. Fern waited for Constant on the thirty-first floor — a single, vast room that was Constant's office. The office was spookily furnished, since none of the furniture had legs. Everything was suspended magnetically at the proper height. The tables and the desk and the bar and the couches were floating slabs. The chairs were tilted, floating bowls. Malachi Constant lay in the wide gutter of his kidney-shaped swimming pool, sleeping the sleep of a drunkard. There was a quarter of an inch of warm water in the gutter.

Constant was fully dressed in blue-green evening shorts and a dinner jacket of gold brocade. His clothes were soaked, He was all alone. The pool had once been covered uniformly by an undulating blanket of gardenias. But a persistent morning breeze had moved the blooms to one end of the pool, as though folding a blanket to the foot of a bed. In folding back the blanket, the breeze revealed a pool bottom paved with broken glass, cherries, twists of lemon peel, peyotl buttons, slices of orange, stuffed olives, sour onions, a television set, a hypodermic syringe, and the ruins of a white grand piano.

Cigar butts and cigarette butts, some of them marijuana, littered the surface. The swimming pool looked less like a facility for sport than like a punchbowl in hell. One of Constant's arms dangled in the pool itself. From the wrist underwater came the glint of his solar watch. The watch had stopped. The telephone's chimes persisted. Constant mumbled but did not move. The chimes stopped. Then, after twenty seconds, the chimes began again. Constant groaned, sat up, groaned. From the inside of the house came a brisk, efficient sound, high heels on a tile floor.

A ravishing, brassy blond woman crossed from the house to the phone booth, giving Constant a look of haughty contempt. She was chewing gum. Yah — he's awake. She had a voice like a grackle. She got her answer. Fern of Magnum Opus," she said.

The woman told Fern, got another message to relay to Constant. Fern quitting? She smiled hatefully. He says you better come in and talk to him before he goes home. It so happens I want something very much. I want a number of things very much. I would like to find out if a chrono-synclastic infundibula kills love in a dog the way it kills love in a man. Is that what you're saying?

All I can say is that my failure to warn you about the stock-market crash is as much a part of the natural order as Halley's Comet — and it makes an equal amount of sense to rage against either one.

Rumfoord retreated into his magazine again. The magazine opened naturally to the center spread, which was a color ad for MoonMist Cigarettes.

MoonMist Tobacco, Ltd. Pleasure in Depth! The picture that went with it was the picture of the three sirens of Titan. There they were — the white girl, the golden girl, and the brown girl.

The fingers of the golden girl were fortuitously spread as they rested on her left breast, permitting an artist to paint in a MoonMist Cigarette between two of them. The smoke from her cigarette passed beneath the nostrils of the brown and white girls, and their space-annihilating concupiscence seemed centered on mentholated smoke alone. Rumfoord had known that Constant would try to debase the picture by using it in commerce.

Constant's father had done a similar thing when he found he could not download Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" at any price. The old man had punished Mona Lisa by having her used in an advertising campaign for suppositories.

It was the free-enterprise way of handling beauty that threatened to get the upper hand. Rumfoord made a buzzing sound on his lips, which was a sound he made when he approached compassion. The compassion he approached was for Malachi Constant, who was having a far worse time of it than Beatrice.

Her arms were folded, and Rumfoord, reading her mind, knew that she thought of her sharp, projected elbows as bullfighter's swords. If you had one shred of concern for me, couldn't you tell me exactly how Malachi Constant of Hollywood is going to try to trick me into going to Mars, so I could outwit him? Sure," he said, "I can see the whole roller coaster you're on. And sure — I could give you a piece of paper that would tell you about every dip and turn, warn you about every bogeyman that was going to pop out at you in the tunnels.

But that wouldn't help you any. I just know what it's shaped like. Billions of dollars are going to be spent on unmanned space ships, just to make work. The Whale will be renamed The Rumfoord in my honor, will be loaded with organ-grinder monkeys, and will be fired in the general direction of Mars.

You and Constant will both take part in the ceremonies. You will go on board for a ceremonial inspection, and a faulty switch will send you on your way with the monkeys. This much of Rumfoord's story was true: Some of the President's comments at the time bear repeating — and it should be remembered that the President gave the word "progress" a special flavor by pronouncing it prog-erse. He also flavored the words "chair" and "warehouse," pronouncing them cheer and wirehouse.

We have been turned back by space once, but it isn't the American way to take no for an answer where progerse is concerned.

President, the wirehouses are all full of automobiles and airplanes and kitchen appliances and various other products,' and they say, 'Oh, Mr. President, there is nothing more that anybody wants the factories to make because everybody already has two, three, and four of everything.

And I said to him, 'In the next twenty years, the population of the world is going to double, and all those billions of new people are going to need things to sit down on, so you just hang on to those cheers. Meanwhile, why don't you forget about those cheers in the wirehouse and think about progerse in space?

We could build and fire rockets forever, and never fill up space and never learn all there is to know about it. President, what about the chrono-synclastic infundibula and what about this and what about that? There wouldn't be the telephone or anything. And besides,' I tell them and I tell you and I tell everybody, 'we don't have to put people in the rocket ships.

We will use the lower animals only. Malachi Constant of Hollywood, California, came out of the rhinestone phone booth cold sober.

His eyes felt like cinders. He was positive that he had never seen the beautiful blond woman before. He asked her one of the standard questions for times of violent change. During the fifty-six-day party he had reached a point where he could draw almost nothing else.

His aim had been to make himself unworthy of any destiny — incapable of any mission — far too ill to travel. He had succeeded to a shocking degree. Then, when it finally went in, you got this big crying jag. That was something new. How your father never even threw a ball to you once — any kind of ball. Half the time nobody could understand you, but every time somebody could understand you, it was about how there never was any kind of ball.

Then you said you'd give an oil well to any woman who'd come up to you and shake your hand and say real loud, so everybody could hear, 'I'm a whore, just like your mother was.

You said everybody else was just waiting for you to fall asleep, so they could put you on a rocket ship and shoot you at Mars. Then you made everybody go home but me.

Servants and everybody. You better go down to the office and find out what the hell is going on, on account of my boyfriend is a gangster, and he'll kill you if I tell him you aren't providing for me right. My mother was a whore and my father never came home, either — but we were poor besides. At least you had billions of dollars.

She stood on the threshold of Skip's Museum, facing the corridor. Down the corridor came the sound of the butler's voice. The butler was standing in the front doorway, calling to Kazak, the hound of space. We were summering on Cape Cod, and we drove over to an amusement park outside of Fall River. He was going to ride with me. Her eyes glittered, and she nodded abruptly. She stalked out of Skip's Museum, went to the foyer to await the arrival of Kazak.

In a moment, she felt the electric presence of her husband behind her. If it seems crude of me not to hate the idea of your pairing off with Constant, it's only an humble admission on my part that he's going to make you a far better husband than I ever was or will be.

Look forward to having nothing but the dignity and intelligence and tenderness that God gave you — look forward to taking those materials and nothing else, and making something exquisite with them. He was becoming insubstantial. Some day on Titan, it will be revealed to you just how ruthlessly I've been used, and by whom, and to what disgustingly paltry ends.

He landed skidding on the polished floor. He ran in place, trying to make a right-angle turn in Beatrice's direction. Faster and faster he ran, and still he could get no traction. He became translucent. He began to shrink, to fizz crazily on the foyer floor like a ping-pong ball in a frying pan Then he disappeared. There was no dog any more. Without looking behind, Beatrice knew that her husband had disappeared, too.

She snapped her fingers, as though to attract a dog. Her fingers were too weak to make a sound. Just fall through the hole in a privy and come out smelling like a rose. It had a thirty-one-story building for its home.

While Magnum Opus owned the whole building, it used only the top three floors, renting out the rest to corporations it controlled. Some of these corporations, having been sold recently by Magnum Opus, were moving out.

Others, having been bought recently by Magnum Opus, were moving in. The Magnum Opus Building was a slender, prismatic, twelve-sided shaft, faced on all twelve sides with blue-green glass that shaded to rose at the base. The twelve sides were said by the architect to represent the twelve great religions of the world.

So far, no one had asked the architect to name them. That was lucky, because he couldn't have done it. There was a private heliport on top. The shadow and flutter of Constant's helicopter settling to the heliport seemed to many of the people below to be like the shadow and flutter of the Bright Angel of Death. It seemed that way because of the stock-market crash, because money and jobs were so scarce — And it seemed especially that way to them because the things that had crashed the hardest, that had pulled everything down with them, were the enterprises of Malachi Constant.

Constant was flying his own helicopter, since all his servants had quit the night before. Constant was flying it badly. He set it down with a crash that sent shivers through the building. He was arriving for a conference with Ransom K.

Fern, President of Magnum Opus. Fern waited for Constant on the thirty-first floor — a single, vast room that was Constant's office. The office was spookily furnished, since none of the furniture had legs.

Everything was suspended magnetically at the proper height. The tables and the desk and the bar and the couches were floating slabs.

The chairs were tilted, floating bowls. And most eerie of all, pencils and pads were scattered at random through the air, ready to be snatched by anyone who had an idea worth writing down. The carpet was as green as grass for.

Malachi Constant sank from the heliport deck to his office in a private elevator. When the elevator door whispered open, Constant was startled by the legless furnishings, by the floating pencils and pads. He had not been in his office for eight weeks. Somebody had refurnished the place. Ransom K. Fern, aging President of Magnum Opus, stood at a floor-to-ceiling window, looking out over the city.

He wore his black Homburg hat and his black Chesterfield coat. He carried his whangee walking stick at port arms. He was exceedingly thin — always had been. Fern is like a camel who has burned up both his humps, and now he's burning up everything else but his hair and eyeballs. He had a salary of a flat million dollars a year — plus stock-option plans and cost-of-living adjustments.

He had joined Magnum Opus when he was twenty-two years old. He was sixty now. Fern sniffed, took his time about answering.

Fern turned away from the window. His face was a troubling combination of youth and age. There was no sign in the face of any intermediate stages in the aging process, no hint of the man of thirty or forty or fifty who had been left behind. Only adolescence and the age of sixty were represented. It was as though a seventeen-year-old had been withered and bleached by a blast of heat.

Fern read two books a day. It has been said that Aristotle was the last man to be familiar with the whole of his own culture. Fern had made an impressive attempt to equal Aristotle's achievement. He had been somewhat less successful than Aristotle in perceiving patterns in what he knew. The intellectual mountain had labored to produce a philosophical mouse — and Fern was the first to admit that it was a mouse, and a mangy mouse at that.

As Fern expressed the philosophy conversationally, in its simplest terms: When you get right down to it, everybody's having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everybody. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much.

It did not make him brood. It made him heartlessly watchful. It helped in business, too — for it let Fern assume automatically that the other fellow was far weaker and. Sometimes, too, people with strong stomachs, found Fern's murmured asides funny. The Constants — ignorant, vulgar, and brash — had copious quantities of dumb luck. Or had had up to now. Malachi Constant had still to get it through his head that his luck was gone — every bit of it.

He had still to get it through his head, despite the hideous news Fern had given him on the telephone. This stuff should sell like hotcakes. It had been the same with his father. Old Noel Constant had never known anything about business, and neither had his son — and what little charm the Constants had evaporated the instant they pretended that their successes depended on their knowing their elbows from third base.

There was something obscene about a billionaire's being optimistic and aggressive and cunning. United Hotcake preferred was a favorite joke of his. Whenever people came to him, begging for investment advice that would double their money in six weeks, he advised them gravely to invest in this fictitious stock.

Some people actually tried to follow his advice. Sit on the edge of your desk, and it will waltz you around the room like a Wright brother at Kitty Hawk. It shuddered nervously. Constant now made a plea that he had never had to make before. You've succeeded in more than wiping out the results of almost forty years of inspired guessing. Fern took a pencil from the air and broke it in two. You and I are the last two people in the building. Everyone else has been paid off and sent home.

And when you leave, Mr. Constant, sir, remember to turn out the lights and lock the front door. Magnum Opus began as an idea in the head of a Yankee traveling salesman of copperbottomed cookware.

He was the father of Malachi. He was an anarchist, though he never got into any trouble about it, except with his wife. The family could trace its line back through an illegitimacy to Benjamin Constant, who was a tribune under Napoleon from to , and a lover of Anne Louise Germaine Necker, Baronne de Stael-Holstein, wife of the then Swedish ambassador to France.

One night in Los Angeles, at any rate, Noel Constant got it into his head to become a speculator. He was thirty-nine at the time, single, physically and morally unattractive, and a business failure. The idea of becoming a speculator came to him as he sat all alone on a narrow bed in Room of the Wilburhampton Hotel.

The most valuable corporate structure ever to be owned by one man could not have had humbler headquarters in the beginning. Room of the Wilburhampton was eleven feet long and eight feet wide, and had neither telephone nor desk. What it did have was a bed, a three-drawer dresser, old newspapers lining the drawers, and, in the bottom drawer, a Gideon Bible. The newspaper page that lined the middle drawer was a page of stock-market quotations from fourteen years before.

There is a riddle about a man who is locked in a room with nothing but a bed and a calendar, and the question is: How does he survive? The answer is: He eats dates from the calendar and drinks water from the springs of the bed. This comes very close to describing the genesis of Magnum Opus.

The materials with which Noel Constant built his fortune were hardly more nourishing in themselves than calendar dates and bedsprings. Magnum Opus was built with a pen, a check book, some check-sized Government envelopes, a Gideon Bible, and a bank balance of eight thousand, two hundred and twelve dollars. The bank balance was Noel Constant's share in the estate of his anarchist father. The estate had consisted principally of Government bonds. And Noel Constant had an investment program.

It was simplicity itself. The Bible would be his investment counselor. There are those who have concluded, after studying Noel Constant's investment pattern, that he was either a genius or had a superb system of industrial spies. He invariably picked the stock market's most brilliant performers days or hours before their performances began.

In twelve months, rarely leaving Room in the Wilburhampton Hotel, he increased his fortune to a million and a quarter. Noel Constant did it without genius and without spies. His system was so idiotically simple that some people can't understand it, no matter how often it is explained.

The people who can't understand it are people who have to believe, for their own peace of mind, that tremendous wealth can be produced only by tremendous cleverness. This was Noel Constant's system: He took the Gideon Bible that was in his room, and he started with the first sentence in Genesis, The first sentence in Genesis, as some people may know, is: His rule at the beginning was that he would own shares in only one corporation at a time, would invest his whole nest-egg in it, and would sell the instant the value of his shares had doubled.

His very first investment was International Nitrate. His program for the next twelve months was this: The third time he bought Trowbridge Helicopter, he didn't download a piece of it. He bought the whole thing — lock, stock, and barrel. Two days after that, the company landed a long-term Government contract for intercontinental ballistic missiles, a contract that made the company worth, conservatively, fifty-nine million dollars.

Noel Constant had bought the company for twenty-two million.

The only executive decision he ever made relative to the company was contained in an order written on a picture postcard of the Wilburhampton Hotel. The card was addressed to the president of the company, telling him to change the name of the company to Galactic Spacecraft, Inc.

Small as this exercise of authority was, it was significant, for it showed that Constant had at last become interested in something he owned. And, though his holdings in the firm had more than doubled in value, he did not sell them all. He sold only forty-nine per cent of them. Thereafter, he continued to take the advice of his Gideon Bible, but he kept big pieces of any firm he really liked.

During his first two years in Room of the Wilburhampton, Noel Constant had only one visitor. That visitor did not know he was rich. His one visitor was a chambermaid named Florence Whitehill, who spent one night out of ten with him for a small, flat fee. Florence, like everyone else in the Wilburhampton, believed him when he said he was a trader in stamps.

Personal hygiene was not Noel Constant's strongest Suit. It was easy to believe that his work brought him into regular contact with mucilage. The only people who knew how rich he was were employees of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and of the august accounting firm of Clough and Higgins. Then, after two years, Noel Constant received his second visitor in Room The second visitor was a thin and watchful blue-eyed man of twenty-two.

Constant invited the young man into his room, motioned for him to sit on the bed. He himself remained standing. The visitor was not offended. He turned the gibe to his own advantage, using it in an image of himself that was chilling indeed. Constant," he said.

I don't owe the Federal Government a dime. He wasn't surprised by its squalor.

He was worldly enough to have expected something diseased. After the war, it was sold' to private enterprise, and the name was never changed — since the work was still top secret, and the only customer was still the Government. Did you think they made little party poppers with paper hats inside? From your reaction, I gather that you haven't the remotest idea what Indiana Novelty does.

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For your information, Indiana Novelty manufactures nothing, but holds certain key patents on tire-recapping machinery. He stood, held out his hand. Fern is the name," he said. He wouldn't explain what he meant. He said I would catch on sooner or later. I asked him how I could go looking for my boy, and he suggested that I work for the Bureau of Internal Revenue for a year or so. Constant, it suddenly came to me what it was he meant.

He meant I was shrewd and thorough, but I wasn't remarkably lucky. I had to find somebody who had luck in an astonishing degree — and so I have. You know absolutely nothing about corporate law or tax law — or even commonsense business procedure. It was a marvelous engine for doing violence to the spirit of thousands of laws without actually running afoul of so much as a city ordinance. Noel Constant was so impressed by this monument to hypocrisy and sharp practice that he wanted to download stock in it without even referring to his Bible.

Constant, sir," said young Fern, "don't you understand? Magnum Opus is you, with you as chairman of the board, with me as president. Constant," he said, "right now you're as easy for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to watch as a man on a street corner selling apples and pears.

But just imagine how hard you would be to watch if you had a whole office building jammed to the rafters with industrial bureaucrats — men who lose things and use the wrong forms and create new forms and demand everything in quintuplicate, and who understand perhaps a third of what is said to them; who habitually give misleading answers in order to gain time in which to think, who make decisions only when forced to, and who then cover their tracks; who make perfectly honest mistakes in addition and subtraction, who call meetings whenever they feel lonely, who write memos whenever they feel unloved; men who never throw anything away unless they think it could get them fired.

A single industrial bureaucrat, if he is sufficiently vital and nervous, should be able to create a ton of meaningless papers a year for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to examine. In the Magnum Opus Building, we will have thousands of them! And you and I can have the top two stories, and you can go on keeping track of what's really going on the way you do now. And then you're going to need the shrewdest, most thorough manager you can hire — or you'll crash all the way back to pots and pans.

Miss Waters' volume, while fuddled as to business details, contains the better account of the chambermaid Florence Whitehill's discovery that she was pregnant by Noel Constant, and her discovery that Noel Constant was a multi-multi-millionaire. Noel Constant married the chambermaid,, gave her a mansion and a checking account with a million dollars in it. He told her to name the child Malachi if it was a boy, and Prudence if it was a girl.

He asked her to please keep coming to see him once every ten days in Room of the Wilburhampton Hotel, but not to bring the baby. Gomburg's book, while first-rate on business details, suffers from Gomburg's central thesis, to the effect that Magnum Opus was a product of a complex of inabilities to love. Reading between the lines of Gomburg's book, it is increasingly clear that Gomburg is himself unloved and unable to love.

Fern never discovered it either, though he tried hard enough. The only person Noel Constant ever told was his son, Malachi, on Malachi's twenty-first birthday. That birthday party of two took place in Room of the Wilburhampton. It was the first time father and son had ever met. Malachi had come to see Noel by invitation. Human emotions being what they are, young Malachi Constant paid more attention to a detail in the room's furnishings than he did to the secret of how to make millions or even billions of dollars.

The money-making secret was so simple-minded to begin with, that it didn't require much attention. The most complicated part of it had to do with the manner in which young Malachi was to pick up the torch of Magnum Opus when Noel had, at long last, laid it down. Young Malachi was to ask Ransom K. Fern for a chronological list of the investments of Magnum Opus, and, reading down the margin, young Malachi would learn just how far otd Noel had gone in the Bible, and where young Malachi should begin.

The detail in the furnishings of Room that interested young Malachi so was a photograph of himself.

It was a photograph of himself at the age of three — a photograph of a sweet, pleasant, game little boy on an ocean beach. It was thumbtacked to the wall. It was the only picture in the room. Old Noel saw young Malachi looking at the picture, and was confused and embarrassed by the whole thing about fathers and sons. He ransacked his mind for something good to. They were: He moved toward the door.

That was the first and last time that Malachi Constant ever saw his father. His father lived for five more years, and the Bible never played him false.

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Noel Constant died just as he reached the end of this sentence: The son took over where the father had left off, though Malachi Constant did not move into Room in the Wilburhampton. And, for five years, the luck of the son was as sensational as the luck of the father had been.

And now, suddenly, Magnum Opus lay in ruins. There in his office, with the floating furniture and the grass carpet, Malachi Constant still could not believe that his luck had run out. He managed to smile at Ransom K. We were weathering the depression quite nicely — yes, and your mistakes, too.

You, apparently, were giving away oil wells last night, and the lawyer was thoughtful enough to draw up documents which, if signed by you, would be binding.

They were signed by you. You gave away five hundred and thirty-one producing oil wells last night, which wiped out Fandango Petroleum. This fact was discovered not by human beings but by a computing machine. Whenever data about cigarette smoking was fed into it, the machine grew tremendously excited, and no one could figure out why. The machine was obviously trying to tell its operators something. It did everything it could to express itself, and finally managed to get its operators to ask it the right questions.

The relationship was this: In the opinion of the Legal Department of Magnum Opus, before that department was liquidated, however, there are several million persons who can sue successfully — on the grounds that Moon-Mist Cigarettes did them out of something rather valuable.

Pleasure in depth, indeed. If one in ten sues you for damages beyond price, sues you for the modest sum of five thousand dollars — the bill will be five billion dollars, excluding legal fees. And you haven't got five billion dollars. Since the stock-market crash and your acquisition of such properties as American Levitation, you aren't worth even five hundred million.

Magnum Opus," said Fern, "that's you, too. All the things you are are going to be sued and sued successfully. And, while the litigants may not be able to get blood from turnips, they can certainly ruin the turnips in the process of trying.

My instructions were to place that letter under the pillow in Room in the Wilburhampton, if your luck ever really turned sour. I placed the letter under the pillow an hour ago. Fern saluted by touching the shaft of his cane to his Homburg hat. Magnum Opus, Jr. Pine slats were tacked to the stucco exterior of the hotel, simulating half-timbered construction.

The backbone of the roof had been broken intentionally, simulating great age.

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The eaves were plump and low, tucked under, simulated thatch. The windows were tiny, with diamond-shaped panes. The hotel's small cocktail lounge was known as the Hear Ye Room. In the Hear Ye Room were three people — a bartender and two customers. The two customers were a thin woman and a fat man — both seemingly old.

Nobody in the Wilburhampton had ever seen them before, but it already seemed as though they had been sitting in the Hear Ye Room for years.

Their protective coloration was perfect, for they looked half-timbered and broken-backed and thatched and little-windowed, too. They claimed to be pensioned-off teachers from the same high school in the Middle West. The fat man introduced himself as George M.

Helmholtz, a former bandmaster.Rented a tent! Their memories were cleaned out by mental-health experts, and Martian. On the following Tuesday, the space ship known as The Whale was rechristened The Rumfoord and was readied for firing. It takes place at a time in the future, when "only the human soul remained terra incognita The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side.

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Also read my other posts. I have always been a very creative person and find it relaxing to indulge in snowshoeing. I do love fatally .
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