I started Slaughterhouse-Five back in the summer but had a hard time getting through it, even though I enjoyed the writing and the way that it’s laid out in short passages. It probably had something to do with the fact that I don’t like books about war. So when I got to the middle of it and they were getting into the nitty-gritty of things, I didn’t feel like continuing and put the book down until recently. I tried the audiobook strategy again and made it through, following along with the text here and there as I pleased.
Because I finished this one in sequence with Cat’s Cradle, I couldn’t help but see several parallels between the two books. Like Cat’s Cradle, it’s also a book about a huge destruction in 1945, this time being the bombing of Dresden (which admittedly I didn’t know that much about). Vonnegut again uses wartime demolition as an undercurrent (or overcurrent?) for some science fiction elements, this time involving the Tralfamadorian alien race. And there’s something eerily interconnected between the Bokononists from Cradle and the Tralfamadorians from Slaughterhouse. I can’t tell if they’re supposed to represent all of us who casually tout the Live and Let Live mentality–or those of us who wholeheartedly submit to the ways of the world without really being concerned with all of the shit that’s, well, unjust. It’s probably a strange combination of both.
I am so far a big fan of the way Vonnegut uses normal, modern people as his main characters. John and Billy are pleasant and likeable, while at the same time are not very heroic in the larger-than-life sense of the word. Their normalness in the midst of all the bizarre things happening around them is quite resonating to me. A particularly moving moment: Billy cries about the injured horses, even though “he hadn’t cried about anything else in the war.” That got me. Along with the prayer Billy kept posted on his wall at the office.
Overall I’m glad I finished. The unglamourousness of it all–exactly as the character Mary O’Hare wanted–is certainly there, which is ironically satisfying for a book about war. I’m looking forward to reading more of Vonnegut’s work.
“It was a little after eight o’clock, so all of the shows were about silliness or murder. So it goes.” (page 255)
“Why me?” he asked the guard.
The guard shoved him back into ranks. “Vy you? Vy anybody?” he said. (page 116)
“Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away. She hadn’t had even one baby yet. She used birth control.” (page 218)
“Among the things that Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.” (page 77)