A classic sci-fi-“ish” novel and the post 9/11 short story it inspired.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First Published: 1969
Read from: Jan. 24 to Jan. 28, 2016
I read Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slaughterhouse-Five at least once a long time ago. I remember that I liked it, but that it effected me in a negative way and left me of two minds on the experience: I liked the book but hated what it described and made me feel. It not so much described, as allowed you to experience and feel some thing that by nature we resist discussing, describing and by all means feeling if we can avoid it.
I reread the book this time around as there was a short story, Peace in Amber: The World of Kurt Vonnegut by Hugh Howey, that I wanted to read that was basically Howey’s tribute to, commentary on, and his literary attempt at describing and moving past some of the same issues exposed in Slaughterhouse-Five. Knowing this I wanted Vonnegut’s work to be fresh in my ever-more-forgetful mind. I’m glad I did, as the novel and short-story compliment each other. And I discovered in the middle of Howey’s story, he described his experience with reading Slaughterhouse-Five and in doing so described far better than I could what Vonnegut’s book did to me.
So without further ado, I am going to blatantly quote these few paragraphs of Howey’s and use that as my review:
“There are books written in the Tralfamadorian way. You can read them in any order, front to back or sideways and inside out. It doesn’t matter, because it all happened. You have to see it all at once to know the book. To tell anyone what you are reading is pointless. you have to wait. You can only comment on your sense of the thing when studied from some distance. I studied a book like this in college, just a few years ago (a Tralfamadorian would say that I am still studying it.) I hated the book when I read it the first time. A lot of people died. Truly awful things happened to a man who became an author, but he wrote of these things and utter nonsense in the same breath, and this made me dismiss the book. Until I finished it. You have to see all things at once, as on Tralfamadore. I read it again. I caught a glimpse of some other dimension. I began to back away, and I saw all of it at once, and that’s when I wept and saw that it was good.
The thing I hate while reading this book, it turns out, was me. Bad things happen, and shoulders are shrugged. The most serious of events are blended with the strange. The author pulled me inside his mind, and what I found there was a dead stillness, the somber and poignant wisdom of someone with little hope and scars across his eyes. There was humor there, too. But not the bright kind. The man who wrote that book is dead. So it goes.”
Peace in Amber: The World of Kurt Vonnegut by Hugh Howey
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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
First Published: Jan. 14, 2014
Read from: Jan. 29, 2016
“For the Billy Pilgrims of the world. Those who have seen things that resist our urge to discuss them.
And for the Montana Wildhacks. Those with the wisdom in their breasts to know what they cannot change.”
I knew this short story by Hugh Howey was a tribute to, comment on, and literary attempt at dealing with similar issues as those in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. It had been a long time since I had read Vonnegut’s amazing yet disturbing work so I reread it just before reading this. I’m glad I did as the two works compliment each other well.
First, Howey’s short but sweet Peace in Amber helped clarify my own thoughts and feelings about Slaughterhouse Five. (I actually used a quote from Howey’s story for my own review on this reading of Vonnegut’s novel.) Second, it was a tight, well written short story using Vonnegut’s style, referencing his work, but also incorporating Howey’s own experiences and moving past that damaged place which Slaughterhouse Five seems trapped in, to a place of serenity that Vonnegut’s work (and the man himself?) yearned for but failed to achieve. A journey I can relate to and wish I could have expressed as well as Howey has here.