Friday, September 14, 2007

Slaughterhouse 5 - post I

Never having read any Vonnegut it takes a little bit of getting to grips with. It helps because you get a rambling opening chapter that acts as both as scene setter as well as an introduction to the style of writing that is to come.

In terms of style it is on first appearances quite disconnected anecdotes but you start to realise that things are linked and there are echoes that crop up and make you appreciate the skill. So it goes.

Bullet points between pages 1 – 86

* Vonnegut starts by revealing that he was a prisoner of war caught in the Dresden firestorm caused by the allied bombing and had always planned to do a book about it but couldn’t really remember much to do with those days

* He contacts an ex military buddy and starts to talk to him about the past and after convincing his wife it will not be a pro-war memoir he sets off to try and tell the story of the past

* Things really start in the third chapter with the arrival of the central character Billy Pilgrim who is introduced as an old optometrist who is a widower and happy writing to the local newspaper about the time he was abducted by aliens

* He is told to stop talking about his space adventures by his daughter but Billy is a time traveller and the story skips across his birth, marriage and his war years where he was captured behind enemy lines limping along in his assistant chaplains uniform

* Once captured he skips back and forth in time recalling the adventures in the space ship and the zoo he lived in on the alien world, his spell in a mental hospital after the war, his marriage to an ugly rich girl and his relatively stable but uninspiring family life

* The weaving in of the abduction and the capture make you feel as if one experience triggered the other and there is the suggestion of a fourth dimension but there is also the hint that just as time travel with aliens might seem intensely bizarre so does fighting against your fellow man

More tomorrow…


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