RSS

Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

06 May

SH%Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

The blurb doesn’t give much away but how to describe this book, it’s been a challenge for this reviewer but I persevered after much thought and have scraped the surface in a bid to whet your appetite…

Upon starting to read the story I hoped it wouldn’t be another Catcher in the Rye, a book I loathed and found extremely overrated.  I can imagine this book splits readers’ opinions as well, with its often repetitive phrases and cynical outlook.

I feared reading this book, as it is a big hit with students and so for that unreasonable reason alone I have avoided it but having read the reasons why people keep trying to ban it  – and finding them all laughable – I succumbed to its prose.  People seem afraid of good literature and messages contrary to their own but why censor something (with simplistic argument) when you could talk about like reasonable adults?  Probably because the would be ban mongers are not those sort of people.

As far as conflict books go, this is up there with the razor-sharp satire of the magnificent Catch 22 as anti-war material.  I find it interesting that the US has some of the best anti-war literature of the 20th century, widely read all around the world yet still finds itself mired in conflicts around the world, it’s a case study begging to be written methinks.

Billy Pilgrim is an awkward and pathetic protagonist whose not always likeable but is extremely fascinating, there are strong hints to him having a psychological disorder suffered after witnessing the aftermath of the Dresden bombings. However that would be to over simplify a man whose can move through time and lives his life in a different order, real or imagined, his attempt to cope with life and just stagger through passively,  powerlessly accepting his fate should endear him to everybody as we’ve all been there at sometime or another.  Billy is at once likeable and unlikable and trying to quantify the life of the man from the jigsaw pieces is endlessly fascinating and is perhaps best looked at through our own actions.

Vonnegut gives an understated depiction of the inherent randomness of cruelty and death in war, it’s absurd and unapologetic and extremely readable.  As the author was a witness to the Dresden bombings himself, a lot of the details in the book have an even stronger resonance than just pure fiction and the same question must always be asked of anybody in a war zone;  how can you be prepared for something like the DB, the massacre of thousands of people, an incident of horror in a war filled with many atrocities?

There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces.  One of the main effects of war after all is that people are discouraged from being characters.

At times the events seem as farcical as they do terrifying yet show off the insanity of the choices made in extreme situations that individuals face.  The shadow of that terrible bombing hangs over the book, it seems like all strands ultimately lead to and from that incident, like it was some sort of cruel fate that was foretold long ago and destined to scar so many lives.

I haven’t even mentioned the aliens yet, which in many other books would be jarring and dilute from the seriousness of such a topic, yet oddly these sections do work.  Perhaps they are a product of Billy’s broken mind and perhaps not but to go into that and the rest of the history of the man would deprive the new reader of the joys of discovery and this book is as emotionally varied and charged as they come

Originally the repetition of certain phrases annoyed me but being used in widely different (yet also the same) contexts is a clever literary device. Humour and pathos run right through this raucously satirical and disconcertingly dark comedy/tragedy and make this a truly great book in my humble opinion.  It’s very much a book of its time and is littered with sex and swearing which adds to its incendiary nature.

It’s hard to fit this story into a specific genre but there in lies the beauty of the book, part war story/drama/sci-fi with plenty of themes which are as old as human civilisation itself and just like us its disjointed, bounces around a lot and isn’t tightly plotted but ranges around, getting to where it needs to be in its own particular time.  There are some sublimely poignant set pieces such as the strong imagery of watching a war film backwards are particularly stand out in a book full of stand out scenes.  suffice to say I urge you all to go and read this book, it won’t be for everyone but it will prove an unforgettable read.

Of course it happened’, Trout told her.  ‘If I wrote something that hadn’t happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail.  That’s fraud.

Advertisements
 
70 Comments

Posted by on 06/05/2015 in Fiction, Sci-Fi

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

70 responses to “Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

  1. lipsyy

    06/05/2015 at 19:48

    This is one of my favourites, but I haven’t read it since I started blogging and have often wondered how I would do it. You did a great job of yours!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      06/05/2015 at 19:52

      Thank you! For such a short book it’s full of so many facets and I’m loathe to give out spoilers if I can help it. It’s certainly a challenge to write a review for this particular book, I feel like I’ve really achieved something this week now lol.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. shadowoperator

    06/05/2015 at 19:50

    I’ve never read “Slaughterhouse Five,” and I know I ought to, but I have read “Breakfast of Champions,” also by Vonnegut, and it’s as funny as all-get-out. For example, one of my favorite parts is when a visitor to an alien planet is taken to see a porno film. But instead of the writhing bodies which he expected to see, he ends up watching a close-up of someone eating a pear, or something like that. It’s a porno film on that planet, of course, because there isn’t enough food, if I recall correctly. True for our planet too, except that we grow enough food, we just don’t distribute it evenly–hence, very pointed satire. Vonnegut is a genius. Thanks for your review–maybe I’ll get to “Slaughterhouse Five” when my bookshelves are back up, and my books are unpacked (I don’t know if I told you, but about two weeks ago, my big, main three-piece bookshelf came apart and slid sideways, and had to be taken down. I’ve got a copy of “Slaughterhouse Five,” but it’s buried in the stacks on the floor somewhere).

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      06/05/2015 at 20:00

      I am looking to add all of Vonnegut’s works to my collection at some point, I hear that characters pop in and out of his books with regularity and that always makes me happy. His razor sharp wit is brilliant and I can’t believe I shied away foma book I’ve had on my shelf for the best part of a decade for so long. I hope you get your shelves back up soon, I would be hysterical had that happened to me, although the unpacking of your books may remind yo of some hidden gems!

      Like

       
  3. The Book Haven

    06/05/2015 at 19:52

    I have read The Sirens of Titan; it’s an outstanding work. I have got the Vintage Classics edition of Slaughterhouse 5 and planning to read is sometime soon. Slaughterhouse 5 is considered as Vonnegut’s masterpiece. If it is even better than The Sirens of Titan, I would officially become a member of Kurt Vonnegut fan club.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      06/05/2015 at 20:06

      Reading the blurb, it’s nice to see an alien of Tramalfadore featuring as they are also in Slaughterhouse 5. I love that title, The Sirens of Titan, it sounds like the best type of B-movie! You’re in for a treat with this book and I am chuffed to know that I have some more great literature awaiting me.

      Like

       
  4. The Book Haven

    06/05/2015 at 20:09

    Ha ha .. yeah, it does sound like a cool B-movie!

    Like

     
  5. renxkyoko

    06/05/2015 at 20:36

    Believe it or not, I have a book of Vonnegut, that , as expected of me, I haven’t read. I bought a dozen books at the Library, new, hardbound, a buck each, more like donations, that you put in Donation box….. I’m 100% sure one was a Vonnegut. I really need to start reading, SteJ.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      06/05/2015 at 20:43

      A dollar, that is 66p in England, that is a bargain, hardback as well, I like your style Ren I really do. I think Vonnegut would appeal your intelligence my friend.

      Like

       
      • renxkyoko

        06/05/2015 at 21:35

        They were almost free, just donate something thing. I felt guilty that I paid just a dollar . I have this Smithsonian book with a leather cover ( or I think it is ) … I bet it cost so much to print the book. The pictures are sparkling ha ha. One dollar ! I couldn’t believe it. It’s like a coffee table book.

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          07/05/2015 at 06:27

          Well for all the money these book publishers make off of us, I think it is only fair to redress the balance once in a while and get an absolute bargain from them.

          Like

           
  6. Alastair Savage

    06/05/2015 at 21:50

    I’ve never read it and I don’t know why. Perhaps its reputation as a difficult book put me off. But this is your strongest recommendation for a long while, and so I think it’s time to give Mr Vonnegut a go.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      07/05/2015 at 06:03

      It is high time you picked this up sir! Slaughterhouse 5 and 1984 are both books that seem to have a reputation as difficult reads but neither have struck me as difficult in any way…apart from I had to look up totalitarianism when I first picked up the latter back in the day.

      Like

       
      • Alastair Savage

        07/05/2015 at 07:20

        Yikes! I have to do it now. I’ll get it for my Kindle because I don’t have a lot of shelf space and Slaughterhouse 5 is a brick of a book if I remember rightly.
        On the theme of dystopias, have you read The Handmaid’s Tale? That is a fine, fine book.

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          07/05/2015 at 08:45

          It’s actually only around 200 pages long although my review probably doesn’t give that impression. I have The Handmaids Tale somewhere, I think I need a hike through the bookshelves to find some of the forgotten gems that have been lost to my memory.

          Like

           
          • shadowoperator

            08/05/2015 at 16:07

            Shame on you, read it right away! Margaret Atwood is excellent!

            Like

             
            • Ste J

              08/05/2015 at 16:08

              When I find my copy I will, I think it is boxed up in the shed, I need to conduct an archaeological dig to find some hidden gems, I know Anna Karenina is there as well.

              Like

               
  7. Letizia

    06/05/2015 at 21:54

    I read Cat’s Cradle as a teen and loved it (I should read it now and see if I still do) but for some reason that didn’t lead me to read this one (odd).

    Not that I need another reason to love you, but my heart was all aflutter upon reading that you didn’t like Catcher in the Rye either. You’re a man after my own heart.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      07/05/2015 at 06:23

      Which reminds me I need to read The Prague Cemetery, which inexplicably I haven’t gotten around to yet. It’s funny how books get away from us.

      Great minds think alike, I am always staggered by the depth of passion some people give to Catcher, I don’t understand it but then again I’m easily confused. I think our literary loves are pretty close so I predict that the books we haven’t read that the other one recommends should be sure fire hits. I hope I didn’t give you a permanent heart condition with my review, you should get yourself checked out at the doctors for that if I did!

      Like

       
  8. Jill Weatherholt

    07/05/2015 at 00:06

    I’m embarrassed to admit, I haven’t read Slaughterhouse 5, Ste J. I’ll blame it on my high school and college literature professors. You did an excellent job on the review and piqued my curiosity.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      07/05/2015 at 06:07

      Education systems always seem to miss out some great books but perhaps back then you may not have enjoyed it as much back then, I find that I enjoyed books so much more after I left full time education. I’m glad I can tantalise you, it makes writing reviews worthwhile when I get comments such as this.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  9. Bumba

    07/05/2015 at 01:29

    Good review of a good book. Vonnegut stated that there was one good result of the shameful slaughter: he himself sold books and established himself. K’s sense of irony is unmatched.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      07/05/2015 at 06:28

      I love a black to the depths sense of humour and Vonnegut has it in spades. His way of telling the story leading to and from Dresden is as harrowing as the actual event, the man had guts to write it as he did.

      Like

       
      • Bumba

        07/05/2015 at 07:24

        I think you’ll like Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, his later stuff too,

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          07/05/2015 at 08:46

          Excellent, next time I am in a city with a decent bookshop i shall sally forth and claim my prize…with money of course I’m to lazy for actual conquest.

          Like

           
          • Bumba

            07/05/2015 at 17:09

            Maybe Sally wants to read Vonnegut too. Hey, don’t you have public libraries on your island?

            Like

             
            • Ste J

              08/05/2015 at 14:45

              Public libraries are not deemed worth the money these days unless people choose to volunteer to keep them open, it’s part of the ‘all in it together’ attitude that government decided to adopt, which means that the voters do all the work whilst the country saves money to fritter away elsewhere.

              Like

               
              • shadowoperator

                08/05/2015 at 16:19

                Ah-ha! Time to start the (newish) tradition of LFLs in your island, Ste J (I think of it as particularly your responsibility because you read so much so fast and I know you live in the U.K.). An LFL (Little Free Library) is a tradition here in North America (there are some in Canada as well as in the U.S., so I say “North America” rather than “America” because some of my Canadian friends get a little stroppy if you call them a part of “America” plain and simple). A Little Free Library is a box about the size of a milk crate or slightly larger, on a post, which you put up on the front of your property near the sidewalk. People walk by and look at the books in it. You put a book in, you take a book out, that’s the tradition. Usually, the LFLs are beautiful to look at as well, being crafted of wood and nicely painted in lovely colors. There has been some resistance from town “fathers” in at least one or two spots in the U.S., and you need to check it out with utility workers first, lest someone trump up some bizarre zoning law or other (it’s funny how giving things away for free stirs the worst in those responsible for maintaining a free country sometimes!). Basically, though, it’s a wonderful new thing, and even if you’re in a flat and can’t have it on your property because you don’t own the front of your building, you can always spur on those who do have a spot of ground to share and share alike. There’s a post on it this week by a wonderful guest blogger named Lanie Tankard on Richard Gilbert’s site. I think I have his site correctly, if this link doesn’t work, let me know: http://richardgilbert.me.com/ .If that doesn’t work, it might be https at the beginning, or he may have dropped the “me” in the line. If you get curious, have a look (and then maybe start proselytizing!).

                Like

                 
                • Ste J

                  08/05/2015 at 16:30

                  I have heard of LFLs before, although I don’t quite remember where. That is an interesting article and an equally good idea, I think it needs an area where people will appreciate it, where I live is not quite the area that I would choose to host one but there is a movement over here where people read books and then leave them in restaurants or on benches so other people can read and enjoy them and pass them on. I could happen upon a book at any time which is exciting and kinder on the pocket, especially if I can use the money I would spend on a book hel;ping the economy, or buying a pint whilst I sit down with my new book. I will check out the laws around LFLs though, they do have some strange and arcane rules do councils. I found it strange that in the US you are responsible for the streets outside your house, despite the fact it isn’t your property, that struck me as odd.

                  Like

                   
                  • shadowoperator

                    08/05/2015 at 17:26

                    Well, I think the extent to which people are responsible for the streets outside their houses varies from town to town and state to state (and year to year). But when my mom was in college, the city (more like a village) that her parents lived in decided to pave the road they lived along, and the residents on the road had to pay for it, so my mom had to leave college and go home to help her family pay for their part of it, as they definitely were not well-heeled. Luckily, she was able to go back to school in middle age, but it wasn’t her plan to be away for so long. I think an LFL could probably be best justified to a town council if it were definitely on your own property, such as the corner of a yard, where people had to actually step inside your turf to use it. I don’t think you could justify mounting a post into the sidewalk itself without special city permission.

                    Like

                     
                    • Ste J

                      08/05/2015 at 20:06

                      I shall look into the rules accordingly, it is a good idea and if it encourages people to stop by and read and encourage people to talk books then it would be great. America is like lots of different countries all within the same borders, it confuses an Old World dweller like myself!

                      Like

                       
          • Bumba

            08/05/2015 at 08:19

            Hey, I started Jailbird again. Thanks.

            Like

             
            • Ste J

              08/05/2015 at 14:35

              I’d be interested to know your thoughts on it when you’re done and if you appreciate more the second time around.

              Like

               
  10. clarepooley33

    07/05/2015 at 01:53

    I haven’t read much American literature. My parents never had any and my school didn’t expect us to read anything other than British literature. I read the great children’s classics like Little Women etc but no adult US lit until about 12 years ago. I have some catching up to do!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      07/05/2015 at 06:39

      Catching up is good, so many fantastic books to read I don’t think we will ever be caught up and that is both a blessing and a curse in my eyes depending on the day and which was the wind is blowing.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. leapingtracks

    07/05/2015 at 07:24

    Oh my goodness, I’d clearly got completely the wrong end of the stick about this one – I think I thought it was some kind of Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas thing. I am not well disposed to the latter and therefore not drawn to (having been put off by my clear misconceptions about) the former. Need to reboot and think again… 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      07/05/2015 at 08:57

      I tried to watch the Fearing and Loathing film years ago and wasn’t impressed, the only things the books have in common are there relative lengths and that the psychology of the human mind albeit through different circumstances. I much preferred reading this to watching F&L which I may read at some point but not in this decade probably.

      Like

       
  12. gargoylebruce

    07/05/2015 at 10:57

    Vonnegut intimidates me. Although I do have a memoir about schizophrenia (bipolar?) written by his son on my TBR.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/05/2015 at 14:55

      I didn’t know his son wrote books, I will have to seek this one out at some point. Vonnegut shouldn’t intimidate you, I think his ironic and uber dark humour would be right up your (Ramsay) street.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • gargoylebruce

        09/05/2015 at 08:02

        Well I enjoyed The Universe Versus Alex Woods, which features a Vonnegut book club. That’s surely the same as having read some of his work myself, isn’t it? Yes, his son has written two books as far as I know. The memoir about schizophrenia (bipolar?) which is called The Eden Express (I think) and ….. the sequel to the memoir. The name of which I have forgotten.

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          09/05/2015 at 09:39

          I think that sounds close enough for what I can gather of the book, or maybe that is just my appreciation for the lazy side coming out.

          Like

           
  13. Sarah

    07/05/2015 at 11:53

    I think ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ is a masterpiece. Having spent a long time scratching my head thinking how and what to write about it, I applaud your review, which really captured the essence of novel and why it’s so powerful. That’s an interesting point about Americans writing the best anti-war fiction, yet they don’t seem to be able to keep out of them, so true. I wonder whether reading this so recently, contributed to my being so underwhelmed by ‘1984’! 😉

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/05/2015 at 15:17

      I don’t think I touched on half the points I wanted to about the ideas in the story but I’m glad I managed to do a decent job, it was certainly a very challenging book to review with so many diffuse points that demanded making. After the snappiness of Slaughterhouse 5, I think the English way of understating everything probably did make for a contrast that underwhelmed you. I didn’t remember having that problem when I read 1984 all those years ago but a reread is on the cards sometime in the future, the absurdity of Orwell’s vision is terrifying and prophetic and that still frightens me, it’s almost like it’s ordained or something.

      Like

       
  14. Sheila

    07/05/2015 at 17:04

    I keep wanting to read this and for some reason I keep avoiding it. After reading your review, I’ll have to move it up to the top of my list. I had no idea there were aliens in it.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/05/2015 at 14:40

      I wasn’t expecting it until I came to the old school frontispiece and wondered how it would fit into a book that has some tragic scenes but it is seems to work. It’s a short read as well and won’t take long to get through, especially if you enjoy it as much as I did.

      Like

       
  15. Seyi sandra

    07/05/2015 at 19:21

    I’ve missed your awesome reviews my friend!
    The list you gave me sometimes ago is still staring in my face, I think I’ve read two or three out of it, but I’m working on two new books and I realised that if I read anything new, it kind of spilled over when I’m writing. But I’ll be taking a break from writing for about two weeks then I’ll blog more and read more books. I could finish ‘SlaughterHouse 5’ within a day. You really did a great job in wetting my appetite.
    Did you vote today? 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/05/2015 at 14:52

      Hello my friend, I did vote even though my opinion of the majority of the parties is negative to say the least but that’s a rant best saved for another election lol.

      How are the books going? I know what you mean, whilst writing you think of things you have read and they have a way of influencing your ideas. A break is good though, you can unwind a bit and perhaps distract yourself from thoughts of your stories to indulge in new adventures. Keep me updated on the books you choose to read, Slaughterhouse 5 is certainly a quick book, gritty, crazy, funny and sad is a great combination. Keep smiling my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  16. cricketmuse

    08/05/2015 at 13:57

    I’ve tried Vonnegut, and found the writing too gritty for my tastes. Not much of. Faulkner or Hemingway fan for the same reasons. I do think Vonnegut cleared a path for breaking down realism concerning writing about the war. It’s something we discuss in our Modern unit, how the wars affected creativity.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/05/2015 at 15:30

      His honesty is both refreshing and at times hideous, I like to read these types of authors sometimes just to ground me, like when I watch the news just so I can feel miserable sometimes. Remarche’s All Quiet on the Western Front was something eye opening but American writers infuse a real insanity and dark wit to stories. Vonnegut and Heller are sublime in their classic books and I suppose to quantify what they experienced has to take a certain creativity that us civilians find fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  17. LuAnn

    08/05/2015 at 20:37

    Finally a book you’ve reviewed that I have read, albeit it many years ago. After reading your post, I think I may have to read it once again. 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      08/05/2015 at 21:15

      I knew I’d find a book you’d read one day. Rereading a great book is the next best thing to reading an awesome new book, I hope it lives up to the hype for you.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  18. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    08/05/2015 at 21:59

    I thought I’d read something by Mr. Vonnegut, not sure it was this. I may read this, maybe not…right now I’ve got so many books going at one time my head is spinning. I didn’t like Catcher in the Rye either, I did read the book all the way through. I simply did not get out of it what every critique I read said I should be getting out of it. I did not like 50 Shades of Grey and only read about a third of the way into the first book, personally I thought the female was a twit. I gave my trilogy set to the thrift store. And I just finished reading Gone Girl…I also read this all the way through but I didn’t find it as “wonderful” as all the reviewers seemed to think it was. I mention all this negativity here because not reading a book all the way through or reading a book and not liking it are things I don’t normally do. On the upside I’ve read a lot of books that I did like and learned something from…so it balances out 😀

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      09/05/2015 at 09:05

      So many books, so little time and people wonder why we try and cram so many in. Catcher seems to be one of those books that need to be read at a certain age or with a certain mindset, at least that’s what I assume from reading positive reviews for the book. Fifty Shades was shocking but I soldiered through the first book for the reviews sake, it was shockingly bad. Gone Girl I haven’t read but I do think that certain books get so much love because people believe the hype and decide they like it before they even start it and then don’t give due thought to how they really felt about it. I do think reading or half reading books like these do make enhance the amazing books even more when you come across them and that is always a good thing.

      Like

       
      • Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

        10/05/2015 at 14:59

        During my lifetime of reading, I’ve read so many books that I enjoyed, was interested in, that intrigued me, that I learned from, that I’m always a bit disappointed when I read one that does none of these things. I’ve tried though, in recent years, to read books that appear to be important to those younger than myself. (It’s so easy to retreat to the classics of yesteryear 🙂 ) I will continue to do this because I believe it’s important for me to stay in touch with what is happening today…who knows I might read something current that really “lights my fire” 🙂 Speaking of “hype,” I seldom pay attention to it, but I did read some of the reviews for “Gone Girl” and when I finished the book I’m going “What?????” 🙂 In the case of “Catcher in the Rye” it was more a case of the after reading analysis of the book…I know when I was in high school, after reading something from our literature books, we had to discuss, what did the author mean about this, that, or the other thing they wrote about, what was the symbolism, what did it mean. I’m so unintellectual that I seldom look for hidden meanings in books…as far as I was concerned, in Moby Dick, Capt. Ahab was simply pissed at the whale and was doing his best to exact revenge. OK time to move on, I will try some Vonnegut…as soon as I finish all the “real” books and Kindle books I’m reading 🙂
        And thank you for your reviews and insight…great fun!!!

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          10/05/2015 at 20:16

          I’ve never considered doing that before, it is easy to go into the established book corners that we seem to gravitate to but to keep with the literature that is cutting edge and influencing modern thought is a good and important thing to do. I think with books, if there is an important message the author wants to be apparent, they really should write it that way then life would be easier, lol. It does make rereading fun though as we see more the second time around and perhaps plenty that the author didn’t intend but through our unique book journey we are able to see. It’ll be great to hear your views on Vonnegut but no rush, I’m not going anywhere and have plenty more books to wave in your general direction.

          Like

           
          • Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

            11/05/2015 at 13:37

            I am going to reread Catcher in the Rye…and I will read it without looking for hidden meanings LOL I look forward to your reviews so continue waving books in my “general direction” 🙂

            Like

             
        • shadowoperator

          11/05/2015 at 20:55

          Hi, Magnolia. First, I don’t want to brag about myself, simply to tell you that you are not alone in finding “Catcher in the Rye” seriously underwhelming: I have a Ph.D. in lit, and I found it the same way, despite professors’ best efforts to get me to take the main character seriously. I neither found him as good nor as bad as they cracked him up to be, and if he’s neither good nor bad–well, what’s left? “The good, the bad, and the ugly,” to quote a phrase? Holden Caulfield was what’s known as a cipher, or a mystery, but I think he was J. D. Salinger’s mystery without a solution, and I don’t know if he wrote him deliberately to confound people or not–but when academics scent a mystery(myself included, though I haven’t practiced for a few years now), they assume that there IS a solution or an answer, and of course they expend a lot of time and energy explaining what they see as the whats and whys and wherefores. What might help is to know that there is a category of lit. crit. called “reader-response” criticism, and there are other very contemporary (and even a few older) kinds of lit. crit as well, which all proclaim that it doesn’t matter what the author intended (most of them are descended from New Criticism in the 1930’s and 1940’s, ultimately, and other kinds of formalism). What matters, then, is what shape they assume in the reader’s mind, what the reader brings to the text. The most extreme example of this kind of argument is in Stanley Fish’s famous “Is There a Text in This Class?” which argues that there is no single good interpretation to a text, and that even quite basic things are in dispute. Fish is a bit much because he is on the extreme edge of scepticism, but it’s fun to read him as a sort of Devil’s Advocate, especially if you’re tired of reading tooth-and-nail arguments back and forth between critics and other readers about what something means. I hope I haven’t bored you, but I also hope you continue to take what i regard as your good instincts seriously. Don’t ever be afraid to say you don’t like something: what’s important (even to the experts, mostly) is “why” or “why not?”

          Like

           
  19. vsvevg

    09/05/2015 at 18:52

    I recently started rereading Vonnegut, I had a passion for him in my early 20s. I was so not disappointed! I enjoyed Breakfast of Champions and Sirens of Titian sooo much more at 40ish than 20ish 🙂 It is his uncanny ability to write absurd truth with simplicity that blew me away.Must reread Slaughter house soon.

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      09/05/2015 at 18:57

      Two other of my regular blog reads have recently posted about Slaughterhouse 5 so it must be Vonnegut season. I agree that the older you get the more we appreciate the honesty, or perhaps it is that we grow more cynical with age so see them better. I am looking forward to getting my hands on some more of his books and appreciating his style more.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • vsvevg

        09/05/2015 at 19:02

        Yes, I’m afraid it my mature cynicism. Oh well, at least Im in good company 😉

        Like

         
        • Ste J

          09/05/2015 at 19:05

          Oh yes, I’m full of cynicism especially as we have just had the elections over here with all the politicians fawning over the electorate like they actually care.

          Like

           
  20. RoSy

    14/05/2015 at 16:49

    Perhaps I will add this on the list of books to gift to my son.
    Thanks SteJ!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      16/05/2015 at 13:16

      Excellent, I love sharing the love, which is lovely.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  21. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    07/07/2015 at 22:34

    Great review, Ste. I’ve also shied away from this book for a time. My son read it and liked it, so guess I’ll give it a go. 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      09/07/2015 at 07:37

      It’s one of those books that is powerful and the whimsical side of it shouldn’t work but it does sublimely.

      Liked by 1 person

       

Tell me stuff...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: