I read this book because it was mentioned in the Pajiba article about what books say about one’s date, and felt pretty ashamed that I had not crossed paths with Vonnegut despite my many literature classes. Stupid professors. Anyway, holy cow! It sucks that I didn’t read this when I was younger, but maybe then (back when the earth was cooling) I might not have gotten it. So maybe it’s better that I came to the book on my own, rather than being forced to.
I’m guessing most people already know the story: Billy Pilgrim is awkward, odd, may or may not have been kidnapped by aliens and forced to live in an alien zoo, and may or may not be able to travel through time. The story jumps around from Billy’s (then) current time, WW2, the alien planet, various other places in the past, and briefly the future. Billy intersects with the narrator in Dresden during WW2 as prisoners of war (and at least that part was based on Vonnegut’s own experiences). Here’s where I got a little confused. The book is called Slaughterhouse Five, which made me think that the bulk of the story took place there, in Dresden, during the firebombing. I was surprised when I realized I was halfway through the book and we weren’t anywhere near Dresden.
Billy’s time travels usually take place when he is experiencing some trauma, and if I’m not mistaken, most of his travels are to the past, aside from the trips to space. Either way, it looks to me (and I’ve never studied this book, so I could be totally wrong) like Billy has a very rich fantasy life where he retreats when reality becomes too much. I think most people do, only his is more vivid, and can intrude on his real life – like when he was placed in a mental institution after coming home from the war with shell shock.
There was nothing I didn’t love about this book. I find it interesting that it’s one of the most banned (or attempted-to-be-banned) books ever. Ok, sure, it’s profane, blasphemous, violent, and a bunch of other stuff some people don’t like, but if those people looked beneath the surface, they would find a beautiful story about a man who is lost, “unstuck in time,” trying to make sense of the ridiculousness of reality. And so it goes.