Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review of the Day: Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is an incredible novel, but it is not a book for me. 

I had avoided reading this famous book because I thought it would be unbearably dreary. How could a book about the firebombing of Dresden during WWII not be dreary? But it is on the Modern Library's Top 100 list, so I finally read it.  Now I know the answer: If you write a book about the firebombing of Dresden and fill it with time travel, space ships, and extraterrestrials, it's not dreary, it's goofy.

But I don't like goofy books about extraterrestrials, especially when they are really serious books about the morality of firebombing your enemy during war. I realized that I would rather have a dreary, realistic book than a goofy book.


I read Slaughterhouse-Five a couple of years ago. I am only posting my review now because I am updating my Modern Library Top 100 post to include my comments about the books I read.

There are people who feel very strongly that this is the greatest book ever written. I know this because when I first posted my review on LibraryThing, several of them sent me comments expressing their disappointment that we didn't see eye to eye. (That is a watered-down description -- what I actually got were Unibomber-style manifestos on Vonnegut's genius.) 

(If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it -- unless your review is a Unibomber-style manifesto.)


  1. The only Vonnegut I have read is Cat's Cradle, and I really enjoyed it. To me, it's a mix of Alduous Huxley and Douglas Adams. Slaughterhouse-Five is on my TBR Long List.

  2. I haven't read this, but from your description, I don't think it's for me either.

  3. I have also always postponed reading this book. Despite many raves, I'm pretty sure I won't like it. Now I've occasionally been proven wrong when I make that announcement, but unless my book club picks it I'm unlikely to read it on my on! Too many good books in the world.

  4. It's about insanity, which I don't find goofy. I think it more like The World According to Garp, if you don't laugh you cry.

  5. Baley -- I read Cat's Cradle too. I appreciate Vonnegut's talent, but don't enjoy his books. That's just my personal taste.

    Bermuda -- Maybe not. If you prefer realism, it wouldn't be for you. I'm like that.

    Carin -- I agree! I am so compulsive about my lists that I end up reading books I don't personally care for. But at least it cuts down on people saying to me, "How do you know? You haven't even tried it."

    Auto -- Good point! It is about insanity. Insanity manifested in goofy ways, but still sad. Now, Garp, on the other hand, is a book I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

  6. Way back in the depths of another century, when I was in college, I went to a party where Vonnegut showed up. He had to: He'd been paid to give a talk at the school, and the party was in his honor. But he clearly didn't want to be there. And after some overzealous fanboy (not me) spilled a drink on him, he just up and walked out. Didn't blame him.

    I like the book when I read it way back when. Haven't read it since. Wonder what I'd think now.

  7. Bob -- That's a funny story. I think I am glad that I haven't had many celebrity run-ins because I would be the dork who spilled the drink.

    Love the new look, by the way. I've been meaning to tell you.

  8. Bob: I do kind of blame him. But I still love his books even if he wasn't the model of graciousness.

    I worked in a restaurant where another server spilled red wine down a woman's white silk blouse. She was very gracious about it though. Oh and it was Meryl Streep.

  9. Too bad you didn't like it. I love this one. So it goes...

  10. Auto -- I love the Meryl Streep story! I have MS story of my own, that has nothing to do with MS and all to do with a drunken oaf, but it is much too shaggy to go into.

    JT -- So it goes, indeed!

  11. Yes, I wasn't there. It happened right before I started working there and my first week i spilled a glass of ice tea on a table and one of the other servers told me this to make me feel better, which it certainly did. I waited on Liam Neeson.

  12. I read Slaughterhouse-Five about, er, 25 years ago, so I don't have a clue of whether I like it or not. But if I remember rightly, Vonnegut was actually in Dresden during the bombing, so the book might have some added interest as an attempt by a witness to a cataclysmic event to process it in a meaningful way.

    Hmph. Now I'm curious to read it again....

  13. Michael -- I think KV did wrestle with the horror he witnessed and how to write about it. You are absolutely right. I still didn't care for the book, but that's just me.


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