Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities

Buy the paperback

Slaughterhouse Five
by Kurt Vonnegut

Literary Fiction and Classics Editor's Recommended Book: One of the great time-travel and antiwar stories, Slaughterhouse Five follows everyman Billy Pilgrim on a fragmented journey through life. Poor Billy is an innocent American GI, a prisoner of war, huddling for cover in the German city of Dresden, bombed into rubble during World War II. He comes unstuck in time, and we follow the hapless soldier back and forth across the years, where the laws of time and what-follows-what are governed not by the clock and calendar but by other mysterious engines of temporal and spatial existence.
 Topic: 
       Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1 of 38), Read 64 times 
  Conf: 
       READING LIST BOOKS 
 From: 
       Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) 
  Date: 
       Monday, November 15, 1999 06:32 AM 


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's Everyman, survives the bombing of Dresden.
He experiences his life in patches, one moment he's in a prisoner of
war camp, the next he's performing optometry in Ilium, New York. He
has become “unstuck in time.” With all the time-bopping every
incident in the book has a kind of surreal inevitability. The horrors are
given the same emphasis as the mundane. By presenting everything
as equal, Vonnegut somehow manages to make the reader
experience the horror more vividly. Sometimes a whisper is more
effective than a shout. 

What did you all think of the Montana Wildhack, the Tralfamadorians,
and Kilgore Trout? 

Sherry

 
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (2 of 38), Read 54 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, November 15, 1999 07:37 AM Sherry: Part of your description sums up my reaction to this book quite well: "The horrors are given the same emphasis as the mundane. By presenting everything as equal, Vonnegut somehow manages to make the reader experience the horror more vividly." I have trouble putting it into words, but what really hit me was the tone of this book, so consistently maintained from start to finish. There seems to be anger, furious anger, running under the surface--but the presentation is so gentle that this only comes through subconsciously. Vonnegut doesn't shout, rant, or fire off press releases, yet the horror sets in all the more forcibly. David
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (3 of 38), Read 51 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, November 15, 1999 12:31 PM Vonnegut's novels illustrate the humanity at the heart of all major undertakings, be they war or corporations. Notice in this novel that the German soldiers are individualized so much that while reading you forget to say to yourself, "That's the enemy Billy Pilgrim is fighting." No, the soldiers are old men and young boys. They crack jokes and make comments. They laugh and wag fingers and yet somehow Vonnegut's prose illustrates that this is in no way to be demeaning to the POWs--it's just the way things are. Dan
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (4 of 38), Read 51 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, November 15, 1999 08:36 PM Billy also "undoes" the horrors of war when he watches the late movie backwards. I loved this part: "American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England." The final paragraph about this movie was great. "The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed." I thought that Billy's time traveling was a means of coping with reality. Billy could escape stressful situations and go elsewhere in the universe. He could even visit Kilgore Trout's fictional world. Billy learned from his friends the Tralfamadorians that death isn't important because each person who dies is still here reliving his life. This seems like another way of coping. I know that I feel that friends and family members who have died are still alive in my brain. Jane
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (5 of 38), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, November 16, 1999 08:01 AM I would like to note the use of fantasy by various characters within this novel. (1) There's Roland Weary's "Three Musketeers" fantasy and the fact that he is actually recounting events to family and friends before they fully transpire. Roland, of course, is dumped by the scouts and dies on the POW train, never regaling anyone about his "heroic" exploits. (2) There's "Wild Bill" addressing his imagined troops at the train station. He fantasizes that his words will help the troops through their ordeal and that when all is past all they need do is ask for "Wild Bill" if they ever visit Cody, Wyoming. This particular instance is especially sad because Kurt Vonnegut notes that he, the author, was there and recalls actually hearing Wild Bill's words, words which he begins to repeat in the course of the novel. Like Weary, Wild Bill dies shortly thereafter. (3) There's Valencia Merble's fantasy on her wedding night with Billy Pilgrim--she's Elizabeth I and he is Christopher Columbus. This fantasy illustrates that Valencia wants to add a touch of glamour to their relationship. She is supporting Billy Pilgrim--but she wants passion, the sort of "passion" one sees in awful romances. (4) There's Paul Lazzaro's fantasy of hiring hit men to avenge him. He fantasizes that one day an unsuspecting victim will answer the door and get his "pecker" blown off. His is a cruel fantasy, and it is interesting that he bears no umbrage at the Germans but takes on Weary's request to avenge his death "due" to Billy Pilgrim. (5) And then there's Billy Pilgrim. Throughout the book there are hints that all the wild fantasies of being "unstuck in time" are rooted in Pilgrim's reality. He spots an article about the missing Montana Wildhack, he reads Kilgore Trout's The Big Board , which is about humans in an alien zoo. In effect, even his so-called "I've seen my death" scene is Lazzaro's fantasy. My point is that with all these characters escaping reality through imagination, it is fascinating that Vonnegut's main character--Billy Pilgrim--gets the authorial nod while other characters are seen deluding themselves. Weary's being silly, Wild Bill is not focusing on what is actually happening, Valencia is fat and married for her money and is in no way a queen, and who knows what becomes of Paul Lazzaro. However, Billy Pilgrim is actually "unstuck in time." Vonnegut's work implies that Pilgrim is not fantasizing. He just looks that way to those around him. Is he really? Or is he caught up trying to cope with the universality and inevitability of death? The whole Tralfamadorian fantasy hinges on the fact that no one really dies. When viewed with this perspective, the horrors of Dresden and of airplane crashes and of car accidents and of crucifixions seem alright, just part of the plan that "goes." So it seems on the surface. Dan
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (6 of 38), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, November 16, 1999 10:01 AM Jane: Wow! I had totally forgotten the scene about the war movie being run backwards. Now, I'm thinking it may well have been the inspiration for Martin Amis's recent novel TIME'S ARROW, because the premise is exactly the same: the story of the War and the Holocaust told backwards, from the viewpoint of an ex-Nazi physician at Auschwitz. Which just happens to be one of our new reading list nominations. (Hint, hint...) >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (7 of 38), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, November 16, 1999 08:18 PM Dale, Hmm! I am just wondering who nominated TIME'S ARROW! Dan, That is a great note about the fantasies of the various characters. I keep thinking that Billy is really fantasizing and that he knows Montana Wildhack from seeing her on magazine covers and that he picked up Tralfamadore from Kilgore Trout. Jane
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (8 of 38), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 11:24 AM And another thing: I like the way Vonnegut inserts characters from other novels into his other novels. He inserts Eliot Rosewater from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater as well as Campbell from Mother Night . Kilgore Trout, of course, is in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater , but gets meatier roles in Breakfast of Champions , Galapagos , and Timequake . Oddly enough, Billy Pilgrim only appears in this single novel. He never moves on to other works, though his being "unstuck" would make it simple enough. Pilgrim stays in this work alone. Dan
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (9 of 38), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 11:41 AM Dan: Yes. Wasn't Mr. Rosewater the guy who was such an avid volunteer fireman that he kept a separate phone line just for emergency calls? As I recall, when a colleague dialed the fire-fighting line by mistake, Rosewater would shout, "I hope you rot in hell for using this phone line!!!" When they immediately called back on the "right" phone, he would answer it, "This is Eliot. How may I help you?" I loved it. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (10 of 38), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 12:06 PM One reason I nominated this book was that I remembered loving it when I first read it. I thought it would be interesting to have a joint reread and see how/if it's held up over the years. I remembered it as being really funny. Somehow it seemed less so on this go round. I'm mulling over why this should be so, and over how well the book has weathered its own time travel. I think it may have lost something. Or maybe I have lost something. What do you think, folks? Was this a new read for you? Does it work in today's world? Was this a reread for you? Has the book changed or have we changed, or does it work just as well as when it was written? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (11 of 38), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 12:31 PM This is a reread for me, but I remember very little about it other than I remember liking it a great deal. I read it when I was young and idealistic and very anti-war. I think it made less of an impression on me this time. I really got tired of "And so it goes." It seems like he said it every other paragraph. On the whole I still liked it quite a bit, but I too feel like it has lost something of its edge. Sherry
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (12 of 38), Read 47 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 01:00 PM But -- the edge is still there on first reading -- whatever one's age or stage of life -- it bowled me over a couple of years ago and the 'and so it goes' stuck and applies to so much of what is on the collective mind even now. It is going to be so good to get my hands on this and reread it to see what I think AFTER a second time through it. Not knowing Vonnegut's other work -- I missed the significance of the characters floating through -- is that also a loss of meaning? Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (13 of 38), Read 51 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beatrice Soila (bpsoila@aol.com) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 02:20 PM I last read this book in college and remember liking it. I think I liked it even better this time around. Somehow, it seemed more serious than comic this time around -- but also deeper. I am glad I read it with this group. I don't think I would have come up with the time-travel as a mental escape from the horrors of war and life on my own. Once I read it on the board, it seemed clear to me that was going on. Bea
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (14 of 38), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 04:21 PM Ruth: Funny you should mention this change in response to a re-reading of this work. When I first read this novel I laughed so hard I had tears and my sides hurt. People in the library kept 'shushing' me, but that only made it all that much funnier. Now, when I finished it for what seems like the umpteenth time, I found it sadder than I remember it. Pilgrim's tears for the horse resonated with me--in all my prior readings I never really noted this incident before. It seemed that in the end what Vonnegut was illustrating was that Pilgrim did not need fantasy or stoicism to get through the events--he needed to just cry. Dan
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (15 of 38), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, November 18, 1999 04:26 PM Dan, I'd forgotten the horse scene, too. And this time I had the same response to it as you did. What about the name Billy Pilgrim? Good choice? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (16 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 03:45 AM Found this in my bookmarks list -- had forgotten it and I don't know if it will get to the actual interview but maybe someone can figure that out -- It is Kurt Vonnegut talking to Christopher Hitchens. http://www.calendarlive.com/E/E/LAXCA/0003/88/03/cs1.html Dottie -- hoping this will work ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (17 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 06:53 AM Dottie, I think that snippet was just an announcement that Vonnegut would be in person at a particular place on a particular date. I didn't see any links to the actual interview. But what I wanted to comment on, was that Vonnegut's starting to look like Mark Twain (down, Kent, down). Sherry
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (18 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 07:29 AM Oh Great Sherry! I thought somehow we could get through this Vonnegut thread without any references to Vonnegut's favorite author. Now Kent will be here any minute to set us all straight A to Z {G} Dottie: I don't think knowing the characters makes that big a difference, really. It just gives each Vonnegut work a sense of continuity when read in succession. And, since I'm re-reading God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, , I'll note that that photograph with the Shetland pony is in that work as well. That picture gets around. Dan
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (19 of 38), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 10:30 AM Sorry -- Sherry, I DID have the interview but managed to lose the right link -- sorry that all I managed was that teaser! I will search around and see if I can get it back and put up the whole thing. Dottie-- who also noted the resemblance to SLC! ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (20 of 38), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 01:26 PM This list is for Sherry: What "Goes" in Slaughterhouse 5: A List of the People and Items that "Die" and Garner a "So It Goes. . . Chapter One (1)Gerhard Muller's mother in bombing of Dresden (2)Dead people in Dresden whose jewelry is stolen by the "real" Paul Lazzaro (3) The veteran who is crushed by the top of the elevator. (4) Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (5) Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. Chapter Two (1) Billy Pilgrim's father, who died in a hunting accident. (2) Airplane crash on Sugarbush Mountain. (3) Valencia Merbles, of CO inhalation (4) Billy Pilgrim's father, who died in a hunting accident. (5) Regimental chaplain's assistant who Billy replaced, killed in action. (6) Weary's tank crew, killed by Tiger tank. (7) Victims of the Iron Maiden (8) Weary's "worse torture" scenario: Killed staring at sun while ants feast on pecker (9) Jesus Christ, crucified (10) Andrew Le Fevre, Daguerre's assistant who died in prison of pneumonia after being arrested for pornographic pictures (11) Weary's tank crew, killed by Tiger tank. (12) Famous marathon runner wheeled past Billy (13) Private Eddie D. Slovik, shot for cowardice (14) Private Eddie D. Slovik, shot for cowardice Chapter Three (1) Soldiers killed in action whose clothes were taken by newer soldiers (2) Dead Hungarian colonel, into whose boots one could see Adam and Eve (3) Two scouts who abandoned Weary and Pilgrim. (4) Death of Spot, the dog. (5) Corpses seen by Pilgrim as he marches to the train. (6) People dying during a battle whose smoke is witnessed by Pilgrim. (7) Man who died in the boxcar. (8) Wild Bob's corpse Chapter Four (1) Dead champagne (2) Hobo aboard the train who repeated "This ain't so bad." (3) Roland Weary, of gangrene (4) The hobo aboard the train who repeated "this ain't so bad." (5) Prisoners whose overcoats are picked over by American POWs. (6) Dead civilian whose coat Pilgrim picks. (7) Roland Weary, of gangrene. (8) Edgar Derby, by firing squad. (9) Body lice and bacteria, by poison gas. Chapter Five and Six (1) Average number of people who jump in the Grand Canyon yearly. (2) People whose names and numbers were not taken by the Germans (3) The slave laborer from Poland who had stamped Pilgram's iron dogtag. (4) Edgar Derby, by firing squad. (5) Jews, Gypsies, fairies, and communists whose corpses helped make candles and soap. (6) Edgar Derby, by firing squad. (7) Fire bombing of Dresden (8) Dead water on Billy's bedside table. (9) Eliot Rosewater's mother (10) Billy's father, who died in a hunting accident (11) Men in Derby's platoon, from shell and mortar attack (12) Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected., from Kilgore Trout's The Gospel from Outer Space. (13) Don't lynch people who are well connected, from Kilgore Trout's The Gospel from Outer Space (14) A picture of a cowboy killing another one pasted on a television tube. (15) The End of the Universe, by testing a new fuel. (16) Howard W. Campbell, Jr., hanged himself while awaiting trial as a war criminal (elaborated in Vonnegut's earlier novel Mother Night (17) Howard W. Campbell, Jr., hanged himself while awaiting trial as a war criminal (18) Boy's father, who died in battle for Hill 875 near Dakto, Vietnam. (19) Dog, killed by Paul Lazzaro (20) Speculation as to how a hit man would carry out Paul Lazzaro's fantasy (21) Roland Weary, of gangrene. (22) City of Chicago, hydrogen bombed by angry Chinamen. (23) Billy Pilgrim, shot by Paul Lazzaro (24) Speculation of a dog shot by a policemen fearing rabies (25) POWs who "let themselves go" and stop living (26) Hobo along the train tracks. (27) Places bombed by bombers that were not Dresden (yet) (28) The people of Dresden (29) Hooved animals eaten for food by starving German soldiers Chapter Seven (1) Polish man hanged for having sex with German woman (2) Airplane crash at Sugarbush Mountain (3) Animals which provided grease for a cart (4) War widow, feeding POWs (5) "All the real soldiers are dead." Chapter Eight (1) Resi North, died entertaining troops in Crimea (2) People of Dresden (3) Speculation about people dying at base of trees bearing money and diamonds and hence making good fertilizer (Kilgore Trout tale) (4) Death of a great chef (Kilgore Trout tale) (5) People of Dresden (6) Girls in shower, dying in Dresden (7) People of Dresden (8) People of Dresden (9) People of Dresden killed by strafing by U.S. Fighters Chapter Nine (1) Valencia Merbles, of CO inhalation (2) 5,000,000 Allied lives lost in war defeating Nazis (3) 71,379 people killed in Hiroshima (4) Valencia Merbles, of CO inhalation (5) Jesus Christ, of crucifixion (6) Lucretia A. Mott, famous American suffragette (7) Shows about murder on TV (8) Death news on news monitor (9) Rabble rouser, killed by Jesus and Joseph's designed crucifix.(Kilgore Trout tale) (10) Jesus Christ, crucifixion (11) Montana Wildhack, speculation that she was murdered by drowning (12) The novel, as discussed by critics Chapter Ten (1) Robert Kennedy, assasinated (2) Martin Luther King, assasinated (3) Vietnam casualties (4) Kurt Vonnegut's father, of natural causes (5) Death as a means of evolutionary development (6) 10000 people starve to death during a day (on average) (7) 123,000 people dying for reasons other than starvation (8) People of Dresden (9) People of Dresden (10) The Maori who dies throwing up from excavating burned victims (11) Edgar Derby, by firing squad Total "So It Goes" : 102 Percent Dealing w/ Dresden Fire-bombing:: 10% Percent Dealing w/ Edgar Derby: : 4% Percent Dealing w/ Jesus Christ: : 3% Percent Dealing w/ Animals: : 6% Percent Dealing w/ non-living objects: : 3% Percent Dealing w/ Death of Father: : 6% Percent Dealing w/ Death of Mother: : 6% Percent Dealing w/ Sex: : 4% Percent Dealing w/ Passing on of Materials: : 6% Percent Dealing w/ Death During War: : 51% Percent Dealing w/ Death Not During War: : 49%
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (21 of 38), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 02:44 PM WOW! That's an impressive amount of work. I like the 'And so it goes...' The monotony and the boringness of the phrase relates (at least in my mind) to a numbness towards death that must be inevitable when that many people are dying around you. Billy is numb to everything that happens around him in the war. Except the horses mouths. This book is a reread for me; I read it for the first time a couple of years ago. I was surprised this time by how quickly I was able to read it. I had two thoughts. One is that, at first I was assuming that the 'I' in the first chapter and periodically throughout the book actually meant Vonnegut. But I've started thinking about that and wonder why I thought that. This is, after all, a novel. The 'I' doesn't have to be the author. If it isn't the author, who is it? The other thought was that perhaps the jumping back and forth in time was Billy's experience of post traumatic stress syndrome. Karen
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (22 of 38), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 03:36 PM Dan, all I can do is ditto Karen's "WOW." How in the world did you do that? You could expand on it and have it published in some journal or other. It really is amazing that all that death and destruction was so merrily crammed into one little book. Did any of you have a deja vu experience during the "3) Valencia Merbles, of CO inhalation." episode? It brought to mind a scene in the movie Nashville. Sherry
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (23 of 38), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 04:04 PM Migawd, Dan, the mind boggles. Not so much at the statistics, but that you compiled them. I kind of like "So it goes." To me, it's not always a bad thing. The way the Trafalmadoreans use it, I saw it as just acceptance of the vagaries of existence.People die, we can't fight that. Then, as the "so it goeses" begin to pile up, we realize the irony of this acceptance in face of the destruction created by man. Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (24 of 38), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 04:38 PM Well -- this is rather tangential but -- I have always liked listening to Linda Ellerbee -- TV news person -- her tagline -- And so it goes. Well, reading Slaughterhouse Five as I did very late in life -- only a couple of years ago - I found that And so it goes. running throughout the book and the "ah-hah!" bulb went on. Aside form that connection though I did like it -- it tied the unrelated together and sometimes made it apparent how related unrelated things can be. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (25 of 38), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 07:29 PM DANIEL A good list; and appreciated. I was curious, when I read this way back when, what he would do with the bottles. Dead soldiers, as we used to call them. EDD getting ready to start, while others are finishing. A life long habit.
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (26 of 38), Read 33 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, November 19, 1999 08:58 PM I probably read this book 25 years ago and thought it was very funny. I didn't think it was a bit funny this time. I thought that it was sad. Maybe, it is because I have had too many friends and family members die recently. Dan, I am so impressed with your "So it goes!" list. Dottie, I thought of Linda Ellerbee as well. There used to be a restaurant in Evergreen, CO., named Kilgore Trout's. Surprise! They served trout as their main entree. Jane
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (27 of 38), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, November 20, 1999 01:04 PM This was my first read of Slaughterhouse-Five which is sort of strange...it seems one I would've naturally read. However, I never expected to like Vonnegut. He always struck me as self-consciously quirky. I did see the movie that was made of this and remember being irritated by the time jumps. However, this is another lesson for me about what maturity does and how wrong my guesses about authors can be when I haven't actually read them. The "unstuck in time" phrase and the reality of it fit perfectly with how I sometimes feel about time as I get older. The characters plodding through horrendous and mundane situations pulling all of their humanity with them feels very real to me. And, Vonnegut's dry humor seems the only choice, but there is a complexity underneath it all...sad, perplexed, even celebrating at times. Thanks for making me revisit my assumptions, Ruth. I liked this one a lot. Barb
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (28 of 38), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, November 20, 1999 01:06 PM One question, can anyone let me know what Vonnegut's life experiences were that related to this? I thought I remembered hearing that he was in a prison camp himself. Barb
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (29 of 38), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, November 20, 1999 01:23 PM He was a POW making baby formula in Dresden at the time of the raids; he and other surviving POW's dug victims, live and otherwise, out of the rubble and aided in post-raid rescue efforts. An interesting aspect of the Dresden raid is the fact it's become a virtual meme for atrocity against civilians, with the result that many people (younger ones in particular) lump Dresden into the same categories as German terror raids on Guernica or Rotterdam. One thing that seems fairly certain, however, is that the popularly bandied about casualty figures from that raid -- 135,000 to 250,000 are almost certainly a vast exaggeration. See, generally the U.S. Air Force take on the situation: http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/soi/dresden.htm However, assuming this is true, an interesting moral equation is still presented: how many dead German civilians would be justified to save the lives of a few Red Army privates? Which, of course, is an entirely different moral question from any that Vonnegut was considering, down there on the ground, where the bombs were falling. The Chilblained Lawyer
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (30 of 38), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, November 20, 1999 03:21 PM I'm glad you liked it, Barb. It was my introduction to Vonnegut, lo these mumble years ago and I fell in love with what you rightly call his self-consciously quirky style. (What can I say? The 60's were a self-consciously quirky time.) I quickly devoured all his other books, and the new ones as they came out. (I think the later ones are more quirky than solid.) I think the quirk works in S5, as you noted. But like Jane, I found it more sad than funny on this go round. Could it be that at the time of its writing, and of my reading, that laughing at the foibles of the establishment was so ingrained, that we rolled in the aisles hooting every time someone made a gratuitously simple remark? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (31 of 38), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, November 20, 1999 04:26 PM I dunno but I suspected I was in real trouble, age-wise, when I re-re-re-re-read Catch-22, after a lapse of 15 years since the last "re" and found it depressingly juvenile in tone and humor. Not surprising, I suppose, since who fights wars but juveniles, anyway? And, Ruth, I certainly agree with you that Vonnegut's later books had far more quirk that substance in them. My favorite as a teen-aged college kid was Cat's Crade; at that time, knowing all the ins and outs of Bokonism was like belonging to some private club for the dermatologically-challenged. We loved it. Kind of pre-geek geekdom. The Chilblained Lawyer
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (32 of 38), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, November 20, 1999 08:58 PM Ruth, You hit the nail on the head about why we laughed in the past. Jane
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (33 of 38), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, November 21, 1999 08:42 AM I forget who posted the question, but someone earlier said something along the lines, "Is the narrator referring to himself as "I" in Slaughterhouse 5 Kurt Vonnegut himself. As Dick pointed out, Vonnegut was in Dresden at the time and he really did have a war buddy named Bernard O'Hare, a figure who appears in other books, most notably in Vonnegut's latest book Timequake . I always felt that Vonnegut creates a persona for himself within his work--he likes to show himself as author at work on the story. This works best in Slaughterhouse 5 , however. LIke someone noted, his later novels are not as cutting and tend to veer towards the simplistic. Timequake is Vonnegut writing a novel about what a crappy novel he had written and he reminisces about life in general while telling a slight tale about Kilgore Trout--in effect, reworking his material for the odd Breakfast of Champions . I once heard Vonnegut narrative voice compared to the voice of a favorite uncle telling war stories, dirty jokes, and commenting on how life is so blessed and bitchy simultaneously. You think to yourself, "My God, I can't believe I'm still listening to this "old fart" go on and on, but you can't help but attend to his words. One last note: Vonnegut appears in a Rodney Dangerfield movie ( Back to School I believe is the title). Dangerfield is a rich man whose son is chastising for making NASA do his math homework. The son says, "And what about your paper on Vonnegut?" The doorbell rings, and there's Vonnegut in the hallway..."Hello, I'm Kurt Vonnegut..." I found it hilarious. Later on in the film, the English professor makes the comment to Dangerfield's character that whoever wrote that Vonnegut paper "sure didn't know much about Vonnegut." That is, somehow, so very true. I'll stop--when I'm giving blow by blow commentary on a Rodney Dangerfield movie from the 80s, it is time to stop. Dan
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (34 of 38), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, November 21, 1999 08:19 PM That is a great note Dan. There is a Woody Allen movie that had a similar theme. Marshall McLuhan (sp?) was being discussed by some people who were standing in line for a movie. The person doing the talking was obviously a pompous ass. Marshall M. pops out of line and says, "What a bunch of BS!" commenting on the pompous ass's comments. I loved it. Jane
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (35 of 38), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beatrice Soila (bpsoila@aol.com) Date: Sunday, November 21, 1999 08:21 PM Jane - That brought back fond memories of Annie Hall. Bea
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (36 of 38), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, November 22, 1999 07:40 AM I've been re-reading Mother Night and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater because of their close connection to Slaughterhouse Five. Actually, these books do form a kind of trilogy united by characters and theme. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is Vonnegut's first true attempt to articulate his feelings about the Dresden bombings and while it is funny and thought-provoking, it does not deliver the kick that S5 does. In the end, Eliot Rosewater awakens from his "insanity" by hearing a bird in the garden--the same sound that ends Slaughterhouse Five . It reminds me of the bird in the T.S. Eliot poem (and only after remembering the poem did I see a connection between the poet and the protagonist of the novel) "Burnt Norton," where a bird in the garden notes that mankind cannot handle too much reality. I don't have the exact lines with me, but I believe that the bird is a symbol Vonnegut may have pulled from Eliot. In his introduction to Mother Night , Vonnegut gives a brief bio of his WWII career: ...After a while the war came, and I was in it, and I was captured, so I got to see a little of Germany from the inside while the war was still going on. I was a private, a battalion scout, and, under the terms of the Geneva Convention, I had to work for my keep, which was good, not bad. I didn't have to stay in prison all the time, somewhere out in the countryside. I got to go to a city, which was Dresden, and to see the people and the things they did. There were about a hundred of us in our particular work group, and we were put out as contract labor to a factory that was making a vitamin-enriched malt syrup for pregnant women. It tasted like thin honey laced with hickory smoke. It was good. I wish I had some right now. And the city was lovely, highly ornamented, like Paris, and untouched by war. It was supposedly an "open" city, not to be attacked since there were no troop concentrations or war industries there. But high explosives were dropped on Dresden by American and British planes on the night of February 13, 1945, just about 21 years ago, as I now write. There were no particular targets for the bombs. The hope was that they would create a lot of kindling and drive firemen underground. And then hundreds of thousands of tiny incendiaries were scattered over the kindling, like seeds on freshly turned loam. More bombs were dropped to keep firemen in their holes, and all the little fires grew, joined one another, became one apocalyptic flame. Hey presto: fire storm. It was the largest massacre in European history, by the way. And so what? We didn't get to see the fire storm. We were in a cool meat locker under a slaughterhouse with our six guards and ranks and ranks of dressed cadavers of cattle, pigs, horses, and sheep. We heard the bombs walking around up there. Now and then there would be a gentle shower of calcimine. If we had gone above to take a look, we would have been turned into artifacts characteristic of fire storms: seeming pieces of charred firewood two or three feet long--ridiculously small human beings, or jumbo fried grasshoppers, if you will. The malt syrup factory was gone. Everything was gone but the cellars where 135,000 Hansels and Gretals had been baked like gingerbread men. So we were put to work as corpse miners, breaking into shelters, bring bodies out. And I got to see many German types of all ages as death had found them, usually with valuables in their laps. Sometimes relatives would come to watch us dig. They were interesting, too. So much for Nazis and me.
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (37 of 38), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, November 22, 1999 04:19 PM Wow, Daniel, thank you for transcribing that passage. It certainly answers my question. It sort of makes me understand Vonnegut's view of the world...how would you ever look at things as you did before again? I keep wondering about the man who died from sustained vomiting after working as a "corpse miner"...that story must be true. And, though Vonnegut delivers the whole story so matter-of-factly, how much horror must be beneath it all. Barb
Topic: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (38 of 38), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, November 22, 1999 05:28 PM It is true, isn't it, that sometimes hyperbole does disservice to horror. Sometimes just the flat delivery of the facts is most shocking of all. Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper

 

Photo
Kurt Vonnegut

 

 
Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com