Danielle's Reviews > Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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Mar 13, 08

liked it
bookshelves: fiction
Read in March, 2008

So it goes.
I was a huge Vonnegut fan in high school, and had been looking forward to reading his magnum opus. However, I was disappointed.
I think the message of this book is valuable, and it would have lost some of it's power being told in any other way. However, I came away with a bad taste in my mouth. It felt like if I were listening to a rap song full of offensive language and references. Maybe the message of the song is meaningful, and valuable, but because of the presentation, I just can't appreciate what it's trying to say. I was so frequently offended by the content of this book, mainly the sex, some of the language, and the callousness toward human suffering, that trying to appreciate the larger picture was difficult for me.
Especially compared to other Vonnegut books, I felt like this was more the drunk ramblings of a dirty old man.
On the upside, though, some of that callousness is what makes the whole anti-war theme so poignant. I didn't enjoy the Holocaust museum, but it was a valuable experience. I definitely didn't enjoy this book, but in the future, I'll probably be more acutely aware of (and more quick to condemn) the kind of insensitive attitude toward life that permeated this book.
I'm not sure exactly what Vonnegut's intentions were, but for me, I saw a parallel between Billy Pilgrim's attempt to educate the world about the true nature of time, as imparted to him by the Tralfamadorians, and Vonnegut's attempt to convince the world of the true horrors of the Dresden fire bombing. At first, Billy couldn't talk about it at all, because the time wasn't ripe. Billy's hospital roommate alludes to the same being the case with Dresden when he says initially the US didn't even acknowledge the destruction of Dresden because of bleeding hearts who wouldn't understand it was necessary. By the time the truth came out, people didn't want to believe it. I think Billy's final scene of life is hopeful. Just as he eventually amasses devoted followers of his theory, Vonnegut is hopeful that eventually all the world will realize the utter futility of war, and it's the roommate warhawk general that will sound like the crackpot, rather than Billy Pilgrim.
I found Vonnegut's asides distracting, and thought the story would have been better off without the first-person narration. Also, the references to other Vonnegut characters (Elliot Rosewater, Kilgore Trout, etc.) threw me because I haven't read his other books recently enough to tell whether the stories actually fit together or not, so that was a little weird.
Anyway, if it weren't for the offensive material previously mentioned, I would probably read this book again in an attempt to better appreciate it. As it is, I'll leave it with the moral that war is pointless, and so it goes.
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Victor Hi Danielle. First of all, thank you for your review.

I don't know what you mean about the "offensive material" in the book. I honestly don't recall reading anything offensive in it.

You might not be aware but Kurt Vonnegut was actually a prisoner of war in Dresden. Since he was of German descent, he spoke a little bit of German and was appointed as the leader of the group of prisoners. He has to witness the horrors of war and the death of those who he was watching over. I'm sure you understand how traumatic this could be.

Just like the character in the book, he had to force himself to recollect his memories and talk about what happened in Dresden, hence the usage of a third person narrative. It is much easier to talk about something traumatic when you pretend that it has happened to somebody else and mix it with a small dosage of fiction.

The message is clear and I believe he accomplished what he intended. I'm sure we will agree to disagree about the usage of language and offensive terms (I'll have to read it again to come to an honest opinion, but I certainly do not remember it).

Anyway, forgive eventual grammar mistakes as I'm not a native English speaker.

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