Slaughterhouse five – Review

Banned Book Review – “Slaughterhouse five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death”

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Earlier this year, I decided to participate in the Banned Books Challenge to broaden my horizons and read so many of the books that I’ve always meant to read.

I started the year with “The Things They Carried,” a collection of short stories which take place during the Vietnam War.  I decided to stay with that theme of war novels and I moved on to “Slaughterhouse Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut.

“Slaughterhouse five” follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, a chaplain’s assistant, during World War II.  Billy is captured shortly after the Battle of the Bulge and travels to Dresden while a prisoner of war.  He, like Vonnegut himself, is in Dresden during the city’s firebombing in WWII.

According to Wikipedia, “Slaughterhouse five” was banned (attempted to) due to it’s “irreverent tone and purportedly obscene content.”   As with “The Things They Carried,” and I’d imagine any book that deals with war, it is going to discuss things that leave some people uncomfortable.  Terrible things happen during wars, and people should be honest about it (and with themselves).  War is hell.

Bu4066372865251_s6u7rgBp_lt the book covers more than just the war – it talks about Billy’s life before and after war, as well as his interactions with the Tralfamadorians.  The Tralfamadorians experience time different than the traditional linear form that we do, they instead leap through time, experiencing events years apart and often at random.  A oddity, which they impart to Billy, causing him to become unstuck in time – leaping back and forth from his regular life, to the war, his time as a prisoner of war, to his time in captivity with the Tralfamadorians, and other events.

The confusion and off-kilter feeling with time skipping and Vonnegut’s style (not traditional chapters) worked well for a retelling of a war story.  I’ve never been to war, but I’d imagine that most survivors of war have moments of time when they suddenly think about a memory from their time in the war… especially when trying to reacclimate to their old lives and heal from the traumatic experience of going to war.

There is also a refrain that is repeated many times during the book and anyone who has read the book can easily tell you what it is – “so it goes.”  It is often repeated after discussing a character’s death or unfortunate event.  This is part of where the pro-banning the book people got their “irreverent tone” nonsense from.  And to their objections to the book, I’ve no doubt Vonnegut had three words for them: “so it goes.”

It was an interesting and deep story, peppered throughout with some bits that were humorous.  My favorite funny scene was when a writer was at a party of eye doctors and talks with a young woman –

“Did that really happen?” said Maggie White.  She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.  Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away. She hadn’t had even one yet.  She used birth control.

“Of course it happened,” Trout told her.  “If I wrote something that hadn’t really happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail. That’s fraud.”

Five out of five stars for “Slaughterhouse Five,” I’d put it on the list of books that you should read at some point in your life…as it’s probably one of the best novels of our time.

And make sure you check out the banned books challenge for 2015, because books should never be banned.

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12 thoughts on “Slaughterhouse five – Review”

  1. This is one of my favorite novels of all time. Vonnegut is a phenomenal sci-fi writer that transcended the genre, mostly due to incorporating his own experiences and relating the stories he wrote to the tragedies of war. How did you like his little meta-fiction cameo??

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can appreciate Vonnegut’s effort to tell us in some way what it’s like on a personal level. My own writing is a sad novice attempt at the same. I always believed that S5 was banned, not because it was an unfit book, but because Vonnegut was outspoken against the propaganda that glorified war and the machine behind it. War is sheer terror and an orgasmic bloodlust. One is the last terrible experience of the butchered and the other the butcher. Both dance as partners in a fire that consumes them both. On any day at any moment you are the butcher and the next the butchered. If you are unlucky enough to live you will watch the dance in stunning three dimensions and vivid color vignettes that play when they will as long as they will. One’s sanity is saved by the simple fact that once you watch that movie a thousand times it hardly holds your interest. Only then will one spread peanut butter on the bread without stopping and staring through a wall, shaking, and smearing lunch on trembling hands. We need books like the Things We Carried, Slaughterhouse 5, and Norman Mailer’s, The Naked and The Dead to remind us of our violent virtue and to strive to keep it leashed. I’m thankful for your courage to read about and comment on the subject of war. Very well done, but I’ve come to expect no less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. that was definitely a part of why Slaughterhouse five was banned, don’t forget that it was released during the Vietnam War.

      And I agree , books like Slaughterhouse five and the things they carried (I’ll have to check out the other one) are so important to read because of the first hand accounts of what war is really like. So that people truly understand what it means to go to war and the repercussions of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I finished this book yesterday and thought it was great! I too am using the Fraud quote in my soon to be done review which I haven’t yet started other than a few notes. I get the feeling that it is one of those books that splits the reading public like The Catcher in the Rye, I for one loved this one although loathed Catcher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye (for whatever reason this wasn’t included in my high school or college reading lists), but it is on the list of book to be read.

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      1. I wasn’t keen, it didn’t resonate with me, mainly because Holden Caulfield is repetitive and the plot fails to go anywhere, it is a very ‘marmite’ book, you could say.

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