Today was mildly productive. I went to my grandmother’s eye appointment with her and my grandfather, no one died from said trip (although the turn signal may have stayed on for most of the journey) and my grandmother got another chemo shot in her eye. It was pretty gross and medieval, but things are still looking up. However, I don’t really want to discuss my day right now, specifically because it’s 2:30 am and I have work in the morning. I am not even going to edit this right now. Hopefully I will remember to come back and fix heinous errors. Let’s begin:
I finally did it! I finished “Slaughterhouse-Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut. There is much to say, and I’m not sure I can really say it all. Basically all I am going to talk about the steaming emotions the end of the book produced from me, with specific passages.
Perhaps a quick discussion on why I think this book was banned? It’s pretty straightforward: there are a couple references to a young woman having a grand old exciting and carnal time with a shetland pony, several uses of naughty words, multiple references to seamen and wicked, wicked baby-making, plus the main character seems to be completely off his nut. It’s enough to make any good WASP tinkle a bit in their pantaloons. Not their children! No siree bob. They’re not gonna read smut.
First of all though, I finally disconnected from everything that was distracting me and just read the bloody text for the first time. Ever so shockingly, my opinion did change dramatically. I did enjoy the last few chapters. They made me feel active and excited with the text which I was not able to do before. I suppose part of the problem, was that Vonnegut’s protagonist is a bit of a wuss. He doesn’t meet the qualifications of the main story hero, or the image of soldiers in World War II.
I will be honest here, World War II is probably my favorite period of history to study. The character who takes up the majority of the story-telling is Billy Pilgrim, and he’s a bit scrawny, and besides the debatable mental instability, is resolutely annoying. He just doesn’t get his shit together, Of course, in the background of the story is the character of “the writer” who claims he was there, and that everything is mostly true, etc, etc. I don’t know why I like him better than poor old Billy Pilgrim, but I do.
That is really besides the point, it makes no difference who I like better.
It is interesting to me how very absent the presence of the writer is in the story about Billy Pilgrim. I had nearly forgotten he was still there until the end when there was a pronounced regular happening of “I” statements. Sneaky Vonnegut.
Anyway, before this becomes a blog update of seemingly random pieces all strung amuck, let me talk about some passages that were particularly aggressive to my psyche.
The following made me laugh aloud in the doctor’s office. Trying to explain to my grandfather why I thought it was so funny was a terrible tragedy. “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 baby yet. She used birth control.”
Now, you may be thinking that, that’s not too cleverly funny, but despite my general inclination to crawl up my own spine at the mention of making babies, it just strikes me as horribly hilarious to think of someone who is attractive as an invitation to make babies. Followed by, the “She used birth control,” bit… I just lost my shit. Try explaining that to your grandpa.
There was also a mention Jesus Christ and the gospels which went like this, “Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected.”
I was also furious reading this text. This character Lazzaro who “was talking to himself about people he was going to have killed after the war, and rackets he was going to work, and women he was going to make fuck him, whether they wanted it or not.”
That passage makes me want to tear me hair out. I am not mad at Vonnegut, I am mad at Lazzaro.
Then again there is a description of a female character who is the wife of Roomford, your basic jackass. “He knew very little about her, except that she was one more public demonstration that he was superman.” I think I may be mad at Vonnegut for this one. All the women in this story are just props for idiot men. But maybe that’s the point in a book about men and war.
One thing I do want to mention is this theme that goes around full circle. it starts with the mention of the quote, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to know the difference.” (Incidentally this same quote is hanging up in my grandma’s house.) It first appears in Billy Pilgrim’s office, which is nicely followed up with, “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, present, and the future.”
Near the end, we find that his lover, Montana Wildhack, bears a locket between her breasts that says the same thing. Of course, the Tralfamadorian way is to “ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.” Billy also asks them how to make his world peaceful and they think it’s stupid. What will be will always be. They have wars harrowing and terrible. They blow up the universe knowing the exactly how and why, and never do anything to stop it. What will be is done and always will be. You see the moment is structured that way.
At the end, I feel the reader faces the real meat of some sort of anti-war idea. 135,000 people died in the air attack of Dresden and various characters of the story wrestle with the idea of it being “necessary.”
However, as they are digging out the city they come across hundreds of corpse mines. “They didn’t smell bad at first, were wax museums. But then the bodies rotted and liquefied, and the stink was of roses and mustard gas.”
Then this Maori soldier dies of vomiting because of the bodies. I felt a bit overcome with melancholy for this Maori who has a few pages of story life.. Then the soldiers find it is easier just to cremate the bodies where they are, and the bodies of the corpse mines were cremated via flamethrowers. Then poor old Edgar Derby is tried and shot for stealing a teapot.
Over the massacred, the birds are talking.
And it ends with “Poo-tee-tweet.”