May 30, 2007

Book Review: Slaughter House Five

I have been very busy with the end of school year approaching. Add to that the fact that I will be moving my entire life to a new country soon, and you will understand why I didn’t write my book review, immediately after I finished it sometime last week. The supportive and observant reader out there would say, “Firstly, at least you are reading a book a week despite your hectic schedule, and secondly at least you are getting to the review now!” And to that reader, I say, “Yes! Thank you! You are right.” Let’s get on with it!

Every once in a while, usually after much procrastination, we finally begin to explore an artist that we have heard of but never read. Each person’s lists depends on how committed they are to reading what I like to call the “Biggies.” Gore Vidal, for example, is currently on the top of my list. I cannot believe I have never read anything by him. I fumbled through his book Lincoln a few weeks ago, and I think it will be purchased this weekend and put in my cue, because I am tired of Mr. Vidal being on my list of authors I should have, but never read.

Where am I going with this? A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend and he mentioned that Kurt Vonnegut had just died. Of course I had heard the name, but I had never read any of his books. For some reason, I thought he was a Ray Bradbury style Sci-Fi writer. It probably has something to do with the name, Slaughter House Five. Don’t ask; I don’t know why. After feeling outted and embarrassed by my friend for never having read Vonnegut, he shot to the top of my list.

I flipped through a few of his titles the next time I was at the bookstore, and I was shocked to see that Vonnegut was a funny, sixties, post-modern, anti-war, social commentator. Apparently he is like Tom Robbins and Hunter S. Thompson’s love child. I picked up Slaughter House Five and I haven’t looked back since.

Slaughter House Five is one of the top ten books I have ever red. I have made a vow that I will read everything Vonnegut has ever written. I made this same vow about Mailer after I read The Executioner Song, and I am inching along. He has written something like fifty books, but I did finish the Henry Miller catalogue years ago, yes I even read Quite Days in Clichy and Black Spring. My point? I keep my vows!

Slaughter House Five is a tragically funny, profound, absurd look at one of the most devastating and illogical phenomena in our world: War. WWII to be more specific, the bombing of Dresden to be exact. The structure of this narrative still feels fresh even after thirty-six years! The language is tight and precise; the characters are terribly laughable, and the message is vital.

I will not go further into detail. I am sure you have all heard of Slaughter House Five. If you have never read it, I urge you to read it as soon as you can. It is a one of a kind and a very important book, especially these days when we are in a state of the never-ending war on terror. I shake my head every time I write that ridiculous phrase.

As always here are a few of my favorite lines:
There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at once.

I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.

The news of the day, meanwhile, was being written in a ribbon of light on a building to Billy’s back. The window reflected the news. It was about power, sports an danger and death. So it goes…

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