Soft Pipes Press

We play on, preserving the written arts in eternal beauty. (Compiled by Alina Lewandowski)

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Cat’s Cradle tells the story of Jonah, a writer who sets out to write a book about the bombing of Hiroshima. As he learns more about the mysterious Felix Hoenikker, creator of the bomb, he becomes closer to his three children, who each harbor a piece of a secret capable of destroying the world. The people he meets along the way, his self-described karass, will carry him from home, to the island nation of San Lorenzo, and eventually to the end of days. In his search for the truth, he discovers lies, love, and creative new ways of thinking about the concept of truth. Wildly creative, darkly humorous, and complete with romance, adventure, a Central American dictatorship, and an entirely new religion, Cat's Cradle asks and answers important questions about family, the nature of the truth, the ethics of scientific curiosity, and the legacies we leave on this earth after we die. It paints a picture of a dysfunctional family whose need for love consumes them so much, that they pay for it with the destruction of humanity. A true classic of contemporary American literature, it has influenced countless people throughout the twentieth century, and today.
The Yellow Birds The Yellow Birds tells the story of two soldiers deployed to the fictional town of Al Tafar, Iraq. As Private Bartle vows to protect his friend Private Murphy from dying, he discovers new challenges as he struggles to deal with the war, Murph’s ongoing mental deterioration, and his eventual failure to keep his promise. As he returns home, he finds that the war has taken a toll that he could never have expected on his psyche. Like a caged bird, he gravitates back to the battlefield; unable to escape the scars the war has left. The Yellow Birds is a telling of one man’s experience with war, through graphic and visceral descriptions of the battlefield, hard-hitting descriptions of Murph’s mental deterioration, and the eventual tragedy of Bartle’s inability to truly return home from the war. A poetic and honest portrayal of modern warfare, The Yellow Birds is a snapshot of life as a soldier in the Iraq War.
Redeployment by Phil Klay “We shot dogs,” begins this simply told, but harrowing story of a man returning from war. This soldier has experienced terrible things throughout his deployment in Iraq, and has yearned for home since the beginning. When he is allowed to return home, he finds to his horror that his battle instincts make ordinary life impossible. His relationships suffer, and simple tasks such as shopping become nearly impossible. The gory and emotional description of the death of his dog brings him full circle, as he discovers that he can never escape the war, so matter how far he goes from the battlefield. Written by a veteran of the Iraqi war, this telling of one man’s journey back home, only to find that the war has followed him there, is a compelling and visceral portrayal of PTSD and its effects on our nation’s finest. It is gory, to the point, and emotional hard-hitting. It hits close to home, and effectively communicates the suffering of the modern soldier.
Working by Studs Terkel America’s workforce is and has always been incredibly diverse, interesting, and reflective of the zeitgeist of the time. From the rich to the poor, the happy to the unhappy, the respected to the overlooked, all workers of all types are essential to the continued success of our nation. Studs Terkel takes a look into American life in the seventies through this collection of stories about the daily work that we all do. Told by such varied groups as stockbrokers, musicians, CEOs, bakers, receptionists, and many more, Terkel shows us what work is really like for these incredibly different people. Throughout each tale, we discover how people really feel about what they do, and are called to ask ourselves where happiness comes from, and why people choose the professions they do. We are also called to break down perceptions, stereotypes, and smugness, and to accept all work as important to our continued existence as a nation.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison A story within a story, The Empathy Exams tells the tale of a young woman, whose profession as a medical actor causes her to come into contact with many medical students who fail to empathize with her, as they should. She then reflects on her own experiences, flashing back to her choice to have an abortion, and the nurses and doctors who could not hope to ease the pain of her choice with their flimsy attempts to connect with her, or their blatant disregard of her feelings entirely. The Empathy Exams is an interesting look at how we as a society view empathy. It shows how shallow our understanding of it is, and how little we know when it is appropriate to use. The story-within-a-story format allows the reader to examine not only what exactly empathy is, but how it is vital in maintaining our connections with other human beings.
Snow Crash It is many years into the future. Corporations make the rules, technology is king, and our protagonist, Hiro, is delivering pizzas for the mafia. While in real life he works a terrible job and lives in a storage locker, in the Metaverse, the digital world that most of humanity escapes to, he rules. He owns a large house in the best part of town, he can get into the best clubs, and his skills with a sword are unparalleled. When a virus called Snow Crash begins to spread, it is up to Hiro and his streetwise friend Y.T. to save the day. Sumerian myth and modern technology marry in this novel that focuses on how the relationships between us are changing due to technology, but how we at our core have stayed the same for centuries. Celebrating these myths and commenting on the development of technology, the novel also focuses on disease and its spread. “Snow Crash” resembles a digital AIDS, and its story mirrors the story of our past with disease. Smart, slick, and cool, Snow Crash delivers on multiple levels.
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