Kirstie's Reviews > Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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Feb 15, 08

Recommended for: people dealing with trauma
Read in February, 2008

I read this book first in 1999 when my grandfather passed away. It was a bit of a coincidence as his funeral occurred between a Primate Anatomy exam and a paper for my Experimental Fiction class on Slaughterhouse Five. I was frantically trying to remember the names of all kinds of bones when I picked this up in the other hand and tried to wrap my head around it.


Basically, Vonnegut has written the only Tralfamadorian novel I can think of. These beings, most undoubtedly inspired in Billy Pilgrim's head by the scattered science fiction plots of Kilgore Trout, experience time as a continuum that is constantly occurring...and when they look at time, even though in their version of history, the world is in a constant state of being destroyed for example, they choose to see the things that make them happy...the good moments.

What Billy learns from these creatures is that each traumatic event that has happened in his life fits very precisely into a state of meticulous nature. It has always happened and always will happen and so it goes (on and on and on). What Billy Pilgrim truly experiences over and over in his life is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He exists throughout his memories traveling back and forth with the knowledge of what will happen and how precise it all is. Dresden is bombed in every moment and his friend Derby is put in front of a firing squad. At every second, he is the only survivor of a plane wreck, he is getting married, and he is fighting a Children's Crusade. It's the only way he can look at the despair that has happened and make sense of it.

When my grandfather died and I read this, I felt as if it was just what I needed because I could escape back into time and remember the good memories of my grandfather...if they existed (even if in some fourth dimension) then he was just as dead as he was alive and eating peanut butter chocolate ice cream. At the same time my grandfather had a heart attack, I was watching him play cards with my grandma at the kitchen table. But which one to think of? Well, that was easy. Death can't be prevented and so it goes but you can always try to change which moment you live in. It's a little bit different than a memory and if you go far into it, you'll end up like Billy Pilgrim, which is to say, you will go insane because the rest of the world sees time as linear and counts seconds and minutes and hours.

Once and awhile, it doesn't hurt. I re-read this again on the plane rides home and back before and after my grandmother's funeral on Monday and last night. My grandma was a strong and intelligent woman and she always read everything she saw. My recent memories of my grandmother were of her at the holidays. She always had her mind but her physical condition had deteriorated and she was dependent on oxygen. It made me sad to think of her like this a bit.

It's really hard for me to think that my grandma is no more but then I tell myself...well, it's silly for me to keep crying on and on about this. My grandma is right now reading at 4am in her living room chair and I am a child creeping down the stairs hoping she's still up. She is telling me that one day I'll come around and like green onions. She is reminding me to keep my feet off of the davenport and about being "tickled" by something. She lives in a jungle of houseplants and watches musicals all of the time, always pointing out when some distant relative of mine appears briefly in The Greatest Show on Earth. My grandma can't be dead and be doing all of those things, can she? It doesn't make sense. She will always be alive in some moments just like I will always be seven and nine and twenty eight and perhaps past thirty and forty. So, she'll always be here.

I just wish I could dream about her.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Valerie This is beautifully expressed - I feel better now too.


Brooke I dream about my grandparents every once in a while. It's like they are alive again.


Matthew Ok, gotta agree with that. I loathed the book, but the Tralfamadorians were very interesting. Unfortunately, they had nothing at all to do with the fire bombing of Dresden.I felt he threw that whole bit in to make it less pathetic. Sorry... not a fan. But you make a very good point. We should all learn to appreciate the happy moments and pay less heed to the rest.


Alex Fleming I love your writing. Your review makes me want to read your story more than the one yor reviewing. I cant wait to hear your wise, philosophical, sad soothing vibrant voice again.


message 5: by Tere (new)

Tere No imformation or knowledge of this book


Sandra This is exactly how I think about this book...


Kaila Damn. This made me more sad than the book did.


Katie Hayslip I've been dreaming about my grandmother a lot since reading this book... About her still being present while being in a separate world at the same time. In the most vivid dream, she was lying next to me, able to speak and communicate, but unable to open her eyes or move. It's interesting to see the dreams inspired by reading!


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