Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a book I should have read a long long time ago. For years and years I thought, “Well, I’ll read it for one of my high school classes,” and when high school was over, “I’m sure to read it any semester now.” Eventually you just have to grab the literary ignorance by the horn and read the gosh darn book by yourself, which, after a friend loaned it to me (thank god for good friends) is exactly what I did. I’m glad I read it, but I still want to take a class or join a book club that discusses it because there is a lot going on in this book. I suspect I could read it ten more times and still pick up on bits that I didn’t recognize as important and turn out to be brilliant game changers (or story changers? interpretation changers? ….You get the idea).
After reading Slaughterhouse Five I finally understand why nobody I asked was ever able to give a quick summary about what I could expect when I finally got around to reading it. There’s time traveling…but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s centered on the firebombing of Dresden…but it never actually talks about the actual bombing it just talks about before and after. It’s autobiographical… but the author only shows up in the story a couple times as a background character and it’s also kind of fiction. It’s really, very upsetting. Basically, I can see how it’s a hard sell when you just describe it, but I do think this is an important book to read.
If a book about war isn’t at least a little bit upsetting then you are probably a robot or a psychopath and yes, this is genuinely very upsetting (especially one glass of wine in…do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT read this while drinking wine) because while there is time travel and an alien abduction, you believe that even if it isn’t based in reality, it is based in truth. The most disturbing parts are never the overtly fictional parts, the most disturbing parts are things that we know for a fact happened during World War Two and we know that similar things have happened since and are still happening. Reality always tends be a little bit more frightening than our made up stories and never is that more clear than when the main character, Billy Pilgrim, time hops from war and the aftereffects of it, to outer space.