Saturday, July 15, 2006

Book Review of Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five
By Kurt Vonnegut

In Slaughterhouse Five we see the bombing of Dresden through the eyes of Billy Pilgrim, an American POW and therefore vicariously through the eyes of the author.  Vonnegut lived Slaughthouse-5 and took “writing what you know” to a new level. In the course of the story we get to see some old friends – Elliot Rosewater (“God Bless you Mr. Rosewater”),  Howard W. Campbell Jr the American ex-patriot turned Nazi propagandist (“Mother Night”), and Kilgore Trout, a relatively unknown Science Fiction writer and nom de plume for Vonnegut himself.  

Vonnegut uses his unique genre crossing style to present the horror of Dresden in a rather matter of fact manner while allowing Billy to become unstuck in time and take us on a wild ride through his life.  This includes a trip to Tralfamador, the planet where he is on display with former porn star Montana Wildhack in a Tralfamadorian zoo.  

Billy Pilgrim displays all the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  This condition, combined with all the Kilgore Trout novels he has read cause his malaise and the feeling he is unstuck – very similar to the Rosewater character, who in the book actually introduces Pilgrim to Trout’s novels. In fact both characters are misfit soldiers (as I believe Vonnegut may have been), are well meaning but slightly manic people, and experience traumatic episodes during the war – Rosewater kills a volunteer fireman mistaking him for a German solider and Billy witnesses the worst conflagration in World War two.  

The best advice in the book comes from the Tralfamadorians who advise Billy to forget the bad things and concentrate on the good things in his life.  This book is one of Kurt Vonnegut’s best novels, though all his books are worth reading, even Troutesque novels such as “Galapagos”. And so it goes.





Elliot Rosewater

Kilgore Trout

9 Comments:

At 12:16 AM, Blogger Keshi said...

**– Rosewater kills a volunteer fireman mistaking him for a German solider

that's enough to shake him for life...

Keshi.

 
At 12:17 AM, Blogger jin said...

I haven't read it.

I've seen the film...but I'll be damned if I can't remember anything about it!??!

Didn't Vonnegut do some short stories on some cable tv channel a while back? I remember the title, Kurt Vonnegut's Monkey House...wow...can't remember anymore on that, either!??!

Hey I do have a GOOD excuse, tho. I started baking at 2PM on Friday & didn't finish my orders until 4:30AM Sat. Only one 45 minute break for a meal. I've had a few hours of sleep on & off today...but not much. Then someone went & put glue on my chair...I've been stuck in front of this PC for HOURS! HELLLPPPPP!!!

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Keshi: Rosewater actually made an innocent mistake - he led his patrol into a burning house searching for German soliders - during WWII the German firemen and combat troops wore very similar uniforms and helmets - that with the smoke, fire, and stress of combat caused Rosewater's mistake. That one incident crippled him for life, or made him sane, depending on your point of view.

JIN: It is tough to make time to read, much less write. It doesn't help that the space-time continuum has picked up speed as I have gotten older. That's why I try to avoid reading crap. It does happen from time to time.

There are quite a few Vonnegut books. God Bless you Mr. Rosewater, Breakfast of Champions, Blue BEard, and Deadeye Dick stand out. I used to haunt the bookstore anxiously awaiting the next Vonnegut book, just as Billy Pligrim was hoping for more Kilgore Trout books.

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger crallspace said...

Have you read MAN WITHOUT a COUNTRY?

I loved it--- though, I wonder if I'd even like his work. He doesn't want to be called a sci-fi author but ppl label him as such.

I don't dig sci-fi.

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

CS: Yes, I read Man Wihout A Country. It was an interesting glimpse into Vonnegut's life. He is a humanist and a socialist - I htink this ocmes out in his writing.

You might want to give his books a try, there are some science ficiton elements, but mostly they talk to the human condition.

Publishers go nuts if a book isn't one genre, so I think they just lumped Vonnegut in with the SF types. He is more like the Mark Twain of our generation. "God Bless You Mr. Rosewater" or "Slaughterhouse" might be good ones to borrow from the library...

 
At 6:28 AM, Blogger AnJaka said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said...

He's one of my favorite writers of all time.

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Ben: I concur; I couldn’t wait for his next book to come out. I hope he has a couple more in him.

 
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