SDMB Reader's Group book 2 - Slaughterhouse 5

This thread has been a long time coming, and I’m not sure if anyone has actually read the selection.

So it goes.

Slaughterhouse 5 is one of my favorite books, so it is hard for me to discuss it without regressing to grandiose pronouncements of the ineffable awesomeness that is this books, and the deathless themes - life, death, war, peace, love, war, fate, the very fabric of existence. I shall do my best.

I love this book because Billy Pilgrim is a terrible, worthless, absurd hero, without ever being dangerous or daring enough to be an antihero. He is is the protagonist who does not pro or tag - he just bobbles along, flotsam (jetsam?), and I hate him a little bit because he is so pathetic and so accepting and because he makes me a little bit ashamed for being so callous as to hate someone so pathetic and accepting.

I love this book because it’s a war book without the battle scenes. Just the sad and shitty bits: the Children’s Crusade. The muck and the filth and the waiting. John Wayne would be wasted in this film.

I love this book because of the way Vonnegut weaves himself in, with that glorious and egotistical authorial voice in the scene after the American’s have been captured, taken to a POW camp, and are having a bad reaction to the food, shitting their brains out. Says Vonnegut: “That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.”

According to his wikipedia page, one of Vonnegut’s “8 rules for writers” was “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.” My brother and I have argued over exactly how applicable this rule is to Vonnegut’s own writing, but on of the things that I have always loved about his books (and something I think John Irving has also done successfully) is that you often know a character’s ultimate fate from the beginning of the story, and are reminded of it regularly; but that does not decrease the interest or the poignancy of the journey. We know where Edgar Derby will end up, but don’t we all want to see how he gets there and hope (even fruitlessly) that the ending will be different somehow?

I’m not sure what to say, other than I absolutely love this book.

I guess my favorite aspect is the repeated “So it goes”, which for me drives home all the death and tragedy far more than a less understated response ever could. It starts out funny, and then the “So it goes”'s just start mounting (totalling 116 according to wikipedia) and as they do so it gets more and more sobering . . .

I’m also really enamored with the whole four-dimensional perspective thing, whether it’s the Tralfamadorians here or Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. I’m especially interested by the idea that omniscience and free well are mutually incompatible (explored in Watchmen as well as here). I think that says something about the nature of God if he exists . . . . (I’m a bit weird in that I’m basically not religious but I’m really interested in the philosophical implications of religion.)

I also remember that when I first read the book as an adolescent, the bit where he’s stuck in an alien zoo and given a movie actress to mate with was pretty interesting to me . . . . :smiley: