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Friday, May 25

An Anti-War Book That Will Make You Laugh

Liz has kindly asked me to do some guest blogging/book reviews for a spell. I hope you all enjoy.

With the passing of Kurt Vonnegut I felt the urge to reread Slaughterhouse Five. If you are unfamiliar with Vonnegut's writing it might be an acquired taste. There is no one I know who writes like him - I might give him his own genre.

Slaughterhouse tells the tale of Billy Pilgrim, an American prisoner of war in Dresden just in time for the firestorm. Sort of like Vonnegut who, as an American prisoner of war, was in Dresden for said event. If you have read Vonnegut, you know his quirky style: characters flit in and out of all his books peripherally. There is an element of science fiction but one would never put his books on that shelf. Instead, in his inimitable fashion, with his hapless characters, Vonnegut makes you see the horror and moral corruption of human life in the Twentieth Century and beyond. You will definitely laugh when you read this book. You also may come close to tears. Speaking through his characters, here is Vonnegut on religion: "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". On the American poor: "It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters". The book was published originally in 1968 and one of the characters has a bumper sticker saying 'Reagan for President'. I had to laugh at that. It was probably funny in 1968.

It is sad to have lost such a unique voice but he will live on in his books forever.

With regard to Dresden, Frederick Taylor's Dresden came out in 2004. It is the most recent study of the event that I know of. He does debunk some of the 'known facts' which Vonnegut uses in his book. As more archives from this period are opened, information will have to be shifted. If you wish to know more about the night of Feb. 13, 1945, Taylor's book would be my recommendation.

This is cross-posted at my blog, Not A Walking Encyclopedia, where you will find recipes and other book reviews.

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