Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner

Somewhere in the distance, a big dog barked...

I finished listening to Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five on CD on my way home today. It isn't the kind of book I would normally read,  which is why I hadn't read it. It's a strange narrative, oddly written and shaped, called "absurdist" by the reviewer on the CD case. At the end of the recording was a short interview with Vonnegut, in which the film was mentioned. I have not seen the film, but an excerpt was included on the CDs. My recommendation: if you haven't read the book, heard the CD, or seen the film, see the film.

There are several phrases that occur frequently in this book. One, "And so it goes", is said after every mention of a death. It is supposedly what Trafalmadorians say. For those of you who do not know from Trafalmadore (not sure of the spelling right here, don't have the CD set with me right now), it's a planet that the hero of the story, Billy Pilgrim, is taken to on one of his "time travels". Billy gets "stuck in time" and comes to see that every moment is already out there and can be experienced in a line, as earthlings experience life, or can be viewed altogether, or moments can be chosen to visit over and over, including death. Because of this orientation, the Trafalmadoreans don't get excited about death, and thus..."And so it goes". Yet I came to hate that phrase, and because of it and because of the next one, I wonder if I would have read the book through. It was probably easier for me to listen to it.

The second phrase is "and so on". An unnecessary appendage, which serves to suggest that the writer is a hack, is not a great writer, just adds "and so on" whenever there is a list or a description. Also irritating, to me. (Of course I am not suggesting Vonnegut is a hack or ever was. He  is one of my favorite writers.)

The third is "somewhere in the distance, a big dog barked". I just thought this one was funny, especially after I heard it the third time. IT is far less frequent than the other two.

The real story of the book is the bombing of Dresden in WWII. A completely unnecessary bombing from the standpoint of military strategy, presumably it was the brainchild of the English, and the Americans partook in the effort, with the goal of seeing if they could burn an entire city to the ground.They did.  Vonnegut himself experienced this bombing on the ground,while a prisoner of war in an underground shelter, which is no doubt why he lived. The shelter was in a slaughterhouse - Slaughterhouse Five.

The real "Billy Pilgrim" is named by Vonnegut in the interview. He was an infantry soldier who was completely out of place, incapable of the job, and so shocked by the bombing that he developed "the thousand-mile stare" - looked into space, refused to eat or sleep, and eventually died. Vonnegut felt this soldier didn't understand the war or the bombing - and he was right, because it was incomprehensible.

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