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Old 08-20-2011, 08:38 AM   #1
WT Sharpe
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Discussion: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurk Vonnegut (spoilers)

What did you all think of the August Book Club selection, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurk Vonnegut?
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Old 08-20-2011, 11:19 AM   #2
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Meh! It was a waste of time reading it.
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Old 08-20-2011, 11:20 AM   #3
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Can you elaborate? What did you dislike about it? The plot? The characters? The writing style?
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Old 08-20-2011, 01:31 PM   #4
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Nothing about the story grabbed my interest, I felt nothing for any character in the book. There was not much in the way of a plot in the book and that "so it goes..." was most annoying. Ten minutes after finishing it I couldn't of told you much of anything about the book.

A Few weeks after reading it all I remember was he was a captive of war, the English captives thought they were better then everyone else and he may or may not have been time traveling (maybe he was just crazy) I don't even remember how it ended.
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Old 08-20-2011, 01:43 PM   #5
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Vonnegut always makes me laugh... in that "I may as well laugh so I don't cry" sort of way. So in that way, Slaughterhouse Five had me in stitches. Billy Pilgrim was obviously Vonnegut himself; "time-traveling" to avoid (or buy time to assimilate) the various atrocities he witnessed in WWII—both as a soldier and a prisoner of war. Poignant and darkly humorous, his telling of the firebombing of Dresden by the allies alone makes the story worthwhile to me. I know it wasn't in any of the history texts I was forced to read in the first 17 years of my life. I admit it, though: I love everything Vonnegut has ever written—even the stuff he didn't care for himself (I believe he gave himself a C- on Cat's Cradle)—and I'll miss him greatly. A true American literary icon.

NOTE: for those who just can't seem to relate to his disjointed, ofttimes vulgar style, I would suggest reading some of his various memoirs first. They help to put a lot of his fiction into perspective. Science Fiction fans (a label Vonnegut wan't nuts about his work being classified under, btw) would do best starting with a novel like The Sirens of Titan to warm up to his style.

Slaughterhouse Five is one of the handful of books that I'll re-read from time to time.
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Old 08-20-2011, 03:42 PM   #6
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I was wondering if any of the time-travel and extraterrestrial visits were intended to be real or a product of Billy Pilgrim's deluded mind. Billy Pilgrim was a real person, according to Kurt Vonnegut. His name was Edward R. Crone, Jr., and he was one of Vonnegut's fellow-prisoners in Dresden. Crone, who was not cut out for being a soldier, gave up completely on life and eventually died in that POW camp. He refused to eat, wouldn't talk, and spent his dying days staring at a wall. Surely Vonnegut's ideas for this novel came about as he pondered what mysterious thoughts must have been going on in the mind of his fellow prisoner in those days.
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Old 08-20-2011, 04:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
I was wondering if any of the time-travel and extraterrestrial visits were intended to be real or a product of Billy Pilgrim's deluded mind. Billy Pilgrim was a real person, according to Kurt Vonnegut. His name was Edward R. Crone, Jr., and he was one of Vonnegut's fellow-prisoners in Dresden. Crone, who was not cut out for being a soldier, gave up completely on life and eventually died in that POW camp. He refused to eat, wouldn't talk, and spent his dying days staring at a wall. Surely Vonnegut's ideas for this novel came about as he pondered what mysterious thoughts must have been going on in the mind of his fellow prisoner in those days.
Perhaps Vonnegut thought Crone had escaped - at least mentally - during his catatonic states - and is trying to describe where Crone/Pilgrim might have traveled to?
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Old 08-20-2011, 04:11 PM   #8
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Perhaps Vonnegut thought Crone had escaped - at least mentally - during his catatonic states - and is trying to describe where Crone/Pilgrim might have traveled to?
I'm guessing there were many times he wished he were with Crone/Pilgrim on his travels.
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:33 PM   #9
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The book is structured like a Tralfamadorean novel:

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But you’re right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message—describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. 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 one time.”
which is in contrast to one of his earlier outlines:

Quote:
The best outline I ever made, or anyway the prettiest one, was on the back of a roll of wallpaper.
I used my daughter’s crayons, a different color for each main character. One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle. And the blue line met the red line and then the yellow line, and the yellow line stopped because the character represented by the yellow line was dead. And so on. The destruction of Dresden was represented by a vertical band of orange cross-hatching, and all the lines that were still alive passed through it, came out the other side.
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:10 PM   #10
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Can you elaborate? What did you dislike about it? The plot? The characters? The writing style?
It felt very disjointed. It made no real sense. There was no explanation for the time traveling jumps. There was no real explanation for most of it. There characters were ones I didn't care what happened to them. So it goes was way too over used and became quite annoying. It started off not bad until we got to Billy. What I got from it was that Billy was part of a books written by the main character before we got to Billy. So why were we reading a book within a book? Billy was like a child throughout the book.

Disjointed, confusing, annoying and characters not worth caring about. That's the summary.
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Old 08-21-2011, 02:15 AM   #11
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"So it goes" seemed to me to always mark death in any form. Due to the constant repetition it is like an exclamation mark to make the reader notice just how often dying happens, but on the other hand it also says: so what, let's move on.

The use of it reminded me of "The Road", in which there also was a constant repetition of the same short phrases (I'm scared. I know, I'm sorry ).

Overall I found it to be an interesting read with a certain off-humor.
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Old 08-21-2011, 07:15 AM   #12
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I liked the "so it goes" because of it's minimisation of death. The whole Tralfamadorean philosophy taken on by Billy seemed to be a way of coping with attrocity and death.

To me there was no question that the time travel was actually occurring. I took it completely as a delusion, a psychotic break.

I thought the novel was clever and well written. I agree that the author provided no characters with which you could draw any personal connection. But this was quite deliberate - even stated within the story itself. To me, this had the effect of again minimising what was happening to the characters (much like stating "so it goes" after every reference to death).

What BenG states about the structure is an astute observation. But what I find interesting is that the stated beauty of the Tralfamadorean is just not that beautiful. It still remained bleak, depressing. Even a Tralfamadorean point of view does not make the horror of war any prettier or more satisfying. To me, this is the point of the book. Despite all attempts to minimise, the reality can not be portrayed in a pleasing way.

Anyway - this is what I felt about the book. I could be completely off-base as I haven't read any critiques on it.
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Old 08-21-2011, 09:51 AM   #13
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Yes, "so it goes" is the Tralfamadorean philosophy. Vonnegut is not saying it should be a human philosophy. Billy Pilgrim uses it as a coping mechanism but the "powers that be" and the warmakers use it more cynically, excusing wartime atrocities.
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Old 08-21-2011, 09:52 AM   #14
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One of my favorite parts of the book is the war in reverse passage.
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Old 08-21-2011, 10:17 AM   #15
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I disliked the book. There seemed to be no coherent plot, no storyline. Some incidents are described well, but that's not enough for me.

The Tralfadorians and the time travelling, looking back at the book, must be delusions. If they were real, there's no proper exploration of the effects there would really be.

I suspect that their reality is intentionally ambiguious, which I don't like. If the novel is speculative fiction, then they should be 'real' in the novel. If it's not speculative fiction, then they're poor delusions, and over-emphasized.

I disliked the book.
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