Friday, September 17, 2010

Banned Book: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Title: Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Paperback, 215 pages
Date Published: Originally in 1969

Description (Taken from Goodreads):
Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden. Don't let the ease of reading fool you--Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters..." Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy--and humor
Burned in 1973 in North Dakota; challenged and banned over the years in several states for explicit sex scenes, vulgarity, violence, promoting deviant behaviors, as well as other things.
Billy Pilgrim’s travels through time and war is exceptional because it’s completely ambiguous. Billy lives through the monumental and decimating bombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war. He makes it out of the war in one piece physically, but mentally, the man is in tatters. Vonnegut gives us this story about time travel and war (anti-war really), but it’s never really clear if Billy is truly a time-traveller or just a man suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The extravagant and terrifying accounts of war can be gruesome, but realistic. Billy suffers time and again, but has these moments where he escapes to a different time and a different place. Sometimes his suffering is horrible and gut-wrenching. Other times, it is so bad that it becomes laughable. Vonnegut’s dry humor is impossible to ignore, but it’s so blatantly honest at times that it feels wrong to laugh.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five. It’s different from other books because nothing is really clear at the end. Most of the story could be a delusional man’s PTSD hallucination, but that’s one of the best things about it. All the bad or strange things that happen to Billy happen either during the war or because of the war. When people say that this book should be banned because of vulgarity, violence, and promoting deviant behaviors, I just want to say ‘go read it!’ This book is not promoting any of that. This book is Vonnegut’s anti-war proclamation and it’s exquisite in both its complexities and ambiguities. I have a feeling that I’ll read it again and again.

Opening line: All this happened, more or less. ~ pg. 1

Favorite line (I have two:)
All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. ~ pg. 27

And this one:

“That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.” ~ pg. 117
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.


Melissa said...

How have I never read this? It sounds so so good! Great review, Nikki! :)

Melissa said...

Great review. I am going to do one for banned book month as well. Guess I better get cracking on that. lol

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Melissa (#1) - I had never read it before either, but I'm so happy that I chose it for the challenge. It was phenomenal and so much more than I expected.

Melissa (#2) - Thanks and good luck with the challenge!

Em said...

I love Vonnegut. This and "Cat's Cradle" I'm sure that I will read time-and-time again.

A couple of my favorite quotes from Slaughterhouse-Five:

"If I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice."

"He ate a pear. It was a hard one. It fought back against his grinding teeth. It snapped in juicy protest."

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