Friday, April 6, 2012


Today in my teenage angst, I'm reading Slaughterhouse-Five and trying to figure out why people hate it so much. It's just a simple story about an awkward guy who joins the army and time travels a little. I'm really rather enjoying it.

This is the thing with American classics. I've stated before that I'm unabashedly not a classics reader. I appreciate their place in literary history and assure myself that if I was required to read them - for a class - I could. But I'm sorry, Dickens and Austen and James just do not catch my interest and/or write in a method that keeps my attention. Movie versions? Yes please.

American classics, though, are different. I read Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye last semester and loved them. They were, to use my latest literary adjectival verb, devoured in every spare moment. Thus I figured, Slaughterhouse would likely be the same. The difference with American classics is that while they've made strides in American literary development, they're relatively new; because America is relatively new. Slaughterhouse, for instance, was published in 1969. So it goes. Because of this, then, they speak a language through which we connect, identify, and grow. I'm certain that my fight to get through Anna Karenina wouldn't be accomplishing that.

So I'm trying to figure out why people have it so much. And then I read this. And then I thought back to the fundamental-conservatist time of it's publishing and said "oohh."

"So Rosewater told him. It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout. It was about a                  visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfmadorian, by the way. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low. 
But the Gospels actually taught this:
             Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes."

I feel like this passage poses some pretty fair questions. The history of Christianity shows some pretty cruel tendencies. Why, in light of this, does Christianity claim goodness above all else? The passage then goes on to describe the irony of the Passion; which is plentiful. 

I appreciate the ability of authors to speak to things like the Bible without hesitation and furthermore, to address them in a creative, thought provoking way. I'm only half way through the book, but I really do anticipate so much more thought invoking goodness throughout the rest. 

A recommended read? Definitely. 


nova said...

Oh Vonnegut. My dad has a huge collection of his books, and when I was about 12 and had burned through every Stephen King book in the library I moved on to Vonnegut books. He must have shaped my way of thinking a bit. He's awesome!

I'm the same way, I really dig some classics but oh my gosh kill me now if I have to read fucking Austen. BLAAAH (that was me puking)

Anonymous said...

Slaughterhouse 5 is an interesting one. This book convinced me to study english in college, but only after I learned all about english and art and psychology did I go back and read it. It's a wonderful book and blends aspects of all three, but consider the possibility that Kurt Vonnegut hates you as you gobble up his prose.