Wednesday, September 18, 2013

9/50: Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
4/5 stars
This is my 9th book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which Rex leads 12-9. Full list can be found here.

This book was wonderful, as expected, since, hey, it's Vonnegut.

It's funny, though, as this one was the first Vonnegut book many of my friends read. This was never assigned reading for me in high school, and, my goodness, if it had been, I might've turned out to be an entirely different person. It wouldn't have been because of the themes or even the nature of the narrative. I would've just really embraced Vonnegut at an earlier age. If I had read Vonnegut as a high school student, it might've changed my tactics on debating war, society, and sex. Maybe I would've been more sad and less angry about Iraq. Maybe I would've cut people some slack and not anticipated the world as black and white. Maybe I would've have been so baffled about teenage sexuality.

I read my first Vonnegut book in college, and he didn't click for me as the grandiose philosopher of morality and charm that he's come to be for me until I was a young professional.

To me, Slaughterhouse-Five didn't really figure out where the lagoon of my heart was to swim in, as previous books of his have struck me like lightning coursing through my nerves, as the world unveils itself to me. Don't get me wrong. This is a tremendous book, as it observes tragedy and humanity with the same gusto and beauty as he always has. I just think I maybe had it lurking around my life for so long with so many people talking about it that the revelations of it didn't conquer me the same way. It was, however, an absolutely wonderful take on time travel and the problematic, and sometimes rewarding, nature of indifference.

On the most basic level, Vonnegut understood this country and this world better and harder than anyone. The man was just one correct, rousing, glorious statement after another. He witnessed and wrote, and his casual remarks were spot-on and incredible beyond the stuffy libraries of academics and the wild petri dishes of drugs that belong to modern "philosophers."

To view the world with such humor, humility, and wonder, alongside pointing out the destruction and the horridness is unreal, almost unholy. Vonnegut, in this book and others, presents a voice that would've given God advice and told jokes to the Devil. It's just fascinating to know they teach this book in school. What a way to educate youth.

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