Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)


L: 7.5/10

M: 8/10

 Analysis from the perfect shade of crayon, melted in the sun:

So begins the saga of Vonnegut. Recently in a second-hand book store in Ann Arbor, I emptied the shelf of all the Kurt Vonnegut novels I could afford and sent half of them across the country for this book club’s consumption. What is undoubtedly considered “old hat” for some or most, is something that we have never sunk our eyes into. I was excited to start with such a prominent title, Slaughterhouse-Five. For word count’s sake, I will keep the extended and even further extended subtitles of this book at a minimum.

I may have made a mistake when starting with this one. My post-reading research yielding findings that this may be a greatest hits collection by Mr. Vonnegut, with multiple characters from previous books popping up, and far-reaching storytelling goals reaching a crescendo in the pages of Slaughterhouse-Five. The way I see it, at least now, in the initial afterglow of finishing the book, is that what I didn’t know didn’t detract any thrill from my reading experience. So furthermore, my review will be that of the uneducated Vonnegut reader, only having dipped my shallow bookcase toe into his waters.

During WWII, the tragedy of the German city of Dresden holds the secret to the cohesive recipe of Slaughterhouse-Five. Whether this comes from the shell-shocked imagination of a poor soldier, or something heavily soaked in science fiction, is up to the reader to determine. With either door you open and fall through, the tragic life that Billy Pilgrim leads is a jumbled mess of sadness. His life is filled with tragic moments, either occurring in a vertical line or spliced time-traveling complacency.

I wanted to believe in Billy’s story that the alien Tralfamadorians were the cause of his jumbled perception. The alternative, that a sad and wretched war story jumbled the thoughts in his head, is something that becomes more and more apparent as the book goes along, highlighting various moments of Billy’s life that could have lead to inspiration for some of the more wild turns of his tale.

I enjoyed our first course of the Vonnegut platter. At times its age shines through, making some parts a little rough to digest. For a book that I should have read a decade-plus ago in High School, it was a fun read and something that has me excited for more Vonnegut.

Analysis from the peak of your contraction:

I love an old book. I love the sight and smell and sound of them. The pages turn with ease, and they feel previously loved. I like the idea that I am on an adventure with someone else’s suitcase. So when I received my collection in the mail, it was thrilling, and they have been prominently displayed since their arrival announcing to the world that I am well-read and, therefore, quite interesting.

Unlike my other book club half, I do little to no research on what we are getting ready to digest. I go into each book, blissfully unaware of what is ahead of me. I can say with much confidence that I was not prepared for this one. There were several moments in my reading where I put down the book just to take a minute and figure out what the hell was going on. I read books like one would a movie script. It plays in my head, and frankly, it was whiplash from old war to sic-fi, and my mental images couldn’t keep up. I love a challenge though, so really it just whetted my appetite for more.

Poor Billy’s life is tragic and confusing. He flips from one event to the next, believing and causing you to question the reality of time the splices it is served up in. You see, a seemingly weak man abused, manipulated, talked down to, ignored, and was generally discounted. The only happiness in Billy’s tale is that he seems to accept it all with some naivety that somehow makes it seem less unfortunate.

It was an odd book, to say the least, but one I happily read and appreciated. It does leave me wanting more from Mr. Vonnegut. I can get behind an author whose mind makes absolutely no sense to me. I love an adventure and I look forward to the next!

kurt vonnegut (b)

Kurt Vonnegut

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