Thursday, May 22, 2014

Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five, or, the Children's Crusade: a Duty-Dance With Death, by Kurt Vonnegut

Yay for modernist surreally literature!  I had an excellent time reading (re-reading?  not sure about that) Slaughterhouse-Five, and it put me in the mood for more.  I had been thinking about trying out some more Thomas Pynchon and this book put me over the edge, so I now have a copy of V. for summer reading.

This is one of the books that many people who Don't Like Classics have read and loved and called their favorite.  And ha, joke's on you there, it's a modern classic.  All a classic is, is a book a lot of people have called a life-changing favorite.

But that also means that everyone already knows what happens and a summary from me is kind of redundant.  Here goes: Billy Pilgrim, near-washout in World War II, POW in Dresden, then an optometrist, husband and father, has come unstuck in time.  He time-travels, at random, to various points in his own life.  This is because Billy has also been abducted by aliens, the Tralfamadoreans who see all of time at once and put him in a zoo for a while, but return him to the same time he left.  He never tells anyone about all this until quite a bit later.

The firebombing of Dresden is both a central event in the book and almost not there at all.  Vonnegut was in fact present as a POW at the time (he puts himself in as a minor character and then hangs a big neon sign on it), so he's speaking from experience.  It's referenced all throughout the story, but it doesn't actually happen until near the end, and of course they spend the time down in a deep basement, which is how they survive.  Dresden is this empty hole in the middle of the story--you could even think of it as a black hole, something you can't see but that exerts its force on everything else. 

Fantastic book. 



3 comments:

Emily Hubbard said...

I've tried to read this book twice, I think. Once I tried to listen to it on audiobook, which I thought might make it easier...but it turned out to be a terrible mistake. I don't know why it's so hard for me to get into this book; I know so many people love it. I think I have read something else by Vonnegut, though, which I liked.

Jean said...

Yeah, and audiobook would probably be a terribly mistake! It's interesting that you have a hard time with this one, given that you like modern lit/stream of consciousness type stuff better than I do. But it's not for everybody, for sure.

Ruth said...

I'm cracking up. I just finished this book, and I took it in all seriousness. Meanwhile, I love your lightheartedness. I'm just so silly.

I REALLY did enjoy this book.