Summer Vacation, Day 16: Vonnegut

Alright, here goes – a quick review. I should really read this one again, I think.

Three Things To Love about Slaughterhouse-Five:

  1. The Man: Our hero, such as he is, is not heroic. He’s an average, even funny-looking, man who is no one’s idea of a soldier. He has problems headed into the war, and perhaps more coming out. Indeed, none of the characters in this book are larger than life. And some are considerably smaller.
  2. The Message: Three words – So it goes. I’ve said that for years, without ever knowing where it came from. Certainly if this book didn’t coin the phrase, it elevated it to a new level. From the natural passing of the family dog, to the deaths of fleas and lice as the POWs are decontaminated, to the leveling of Dresden, everyone is dying, all the time. Sometimes we hurry it along. Sometimes we don’t remember. Sometimes we don’t even notice. So it goes.
  3. The Method: Here’s another audaciously told story. The timeline’s a jumble, but instead of creating clever devices to signal shifts in time, Vonnegut simply tells you. Hell, he tells you how the story begins and how it ends before he introduces the main character. He repeats “so it goes” to the point of ridiculousness (which, I guess, is the point). He almost dares you not to read his story. I couldn’t put it down.

Given the numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and breaking down, it’s interesting that this book is by a WWII vet and paints a similarly bleak picture of life after devastation. Some deal with it better than others. I’m not sure where Billy Pilgrim falls.

2 thoughts on “Summer Vacation, Day 16: Vonnegut

  1. Yes, they are. I see parallels everywhere – i.e., between Billy Pilgrim and Don Quixote.

    Weird coincidence: I picked up a book of Theodore Roethke poetry a few weeks back. My boss came in to my office, picked it up, and flipped through it randomly until she came across her favorite poem. She shared it with me. That poem is quoted in chapter one of Slaughterhouse-Five.


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