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Slaughterhouse-Five

by

Slaughterhouse-Five Cover

ISBN13: 9780385333849
ISBN10: 0385333846
Condition: Standard
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Staff Pick

What Kurt Vonnegut set out to do was write a book about war, and in particular the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. What he ended up doing was writing clean around it — traveling in and out of time warps, bouncing on and off the earth, sometimes setting down on the planet Tralfamadore, millions of miles away from Dresden and millions of miles away from war. What he created was a masterpiece of satire in which every crazy, clever moment, every whimsical line, no matter how deceptively light, is imbued with the sorrow and the starkness of the atrocity Vonnegut himself witnessed in that very real war.
Recommended by Gigi Little, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

From Powells.com:

Publisher Comments:

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes 'unstuck in time' after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch-22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it unique poignancy — and humor.

Review:

"Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has written one of the major novels of the year....Haunting....Irresistible reading....Poignant and hilarious, threaded with compassion and, behind everything, the cataract of a thundering moral statement." Boston Globe

Review:

"Highly imaginative, nearly psychedelic....It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; it is very Vonnegut; and it works." The New York Times

Review:

"Splendid art and simplicity....Nerve-racking control....A funny book at which you are not permitted to laugh, a sad book without tears, a tale told in a slaughterhouse." Life magazine

Review:

"What I...applaud is the marvelous comic scenes with the British prisoners of war; the control in the war scenes; the understated bitterness with which he handles the American soldiers....When Vonnegut stops preaching and is funny, I take him very seriously." Daniel Stern, Washington Post Book World

Review:

"Serious critics have shown some reluctance to acknowledge that Vonnegut is among the best writers of his generation. He is, I suspect, both too funny and too intelligent for many, who confused muddled earnestness with profundity. Vonnegut is not confused. He sees all too clearly....Only Billy's time-warped perspective could do justice to the cosmic absurdity of his life, which is Vonnegut's life and our lives." Robert Scholes, New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the worlds great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrims odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as "a true artist" with Cat's Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, "one of the best living American writers." Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Zulaikha, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by Zulaikha)
This was my first, and to date, only Vonnegut experience. I read this in my junior year of high school, tacked onto the end of the year. Mostly as an indulgence to my english teacher who was obsessed with Vonnegut and squeezing it in at the end of the year to have people to fanboy and geek out with after they'd read it. Then I read it and figured out why he was so obsessed. I have to say, this book yanked me firmly into modern literature. (At the time I was deep into my love for 18th and 19th century prose style. Didn't really get over that. Just paused it for a time.) After Vonnegut, I read a slew of men from around his time period. I really credit this book with making me branch out a whole lot more.
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jackiezinger, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by jackiezinger)
What an incredible book. It's just the right amount of "write," both smart and witty and composed of beautiful prose, but, at the same time, containing a reachable, understandable story. It's a book anyone can read but not a book everyone will READ, though, because it has a beautiful, complex message that will rattle around in your skull for days after finishing it. I can't begin to explain how much this book means to me in its powerful anti-war message and ommentary on life in the context of time (or, rather, time in the context of life). Vonnegut is a genius.

"Here we are, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why."
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afrady781, May 4, 2010 (view all comments by afrady781)
In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five (the Children’s Crusade), there is a successful balance between hidden symbols, the search for life’s answers, and the destructiveness and the impacts of war. This book is different from anything I have ever read. It is so unusual in its plot and purpose that it’s a step above most things I have read. It starts off introducing the main character Billy Pilgrim and his ability to travel through time. We learn that he has been traveling through time for years upon years, an ability similar to that of the Tralfamadorians. The Tralfamadorians are the aliens that will one day abduct Pilgrim to take them to their planet to live in on display inside their zoo. The Tralfamadorians see the world differently than humans, and they are able to teach Pilgrim about their sight of the world. Although the novel is constantly traveling through time, much of it takes place as Pilgrim is a prisoner of war in World War II. One of the main events of Pilgrim’s life being his survival of the bombing of Dresden.
Author Kurt Vonnegut has effectively written an anti-war novel with a fantastic plot. Vonnegut has direct ties to WWII where he was actually a prisoner of war in the bombing of Dresden. He has taken his own personal experience and applied it to Billy Pilgrim’s life. Vonnegut’s literature, Slaughterhouse-Five included, seem to follow the same guidelines. This novel attempts to cope with a world filled with tragic disparities – a part of human life. He gives his own possible answers for the way the world works and why terrible things happen to everyone.
Tralfamadorians see the world in a different way than you and I. They see in four dimensions. It was explained to Pilgrim that, “when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance” (26-27).Although this seems like a simple concept, the things the aliens are able to see and experience are hard for humans to wrap their mind around. Another ideal of the Tralfamadorians would be the concept of the phrase, “so it goes”. This is a strong reoccurring motif that will usually be stated after a tragic event, such as death. It is a way to remember that that moment has always happened, and always will happen, because that’s just how it is. It means that this person’s death should not be mourned because they are still very alive in the past.
The destructiveness of war is very present within this anti-war novel. Within the first chapter it is stated about the novel about Dresden that, “you’ll pretend you were mean instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs” (14). This concept that war is fought by babies, that it’s a children’s crusade, is a central theme within the book. Although Pilgrim survived the bombing of Dresden, it has forever been destructive over his life. As if he has never grown out of been a young man in war. For example, continuing to go by Billy rather than William even as an adult. In Slaughterhouse-Five Vonnegut embraces the idea of the physical destructiveness of war, but emphasizes the emotional destructiveness of it.
Vonnegut includes symbolism into this anti-war book about the struggles of humanity. The first being the bird that says “poo-tee-weet”. When first reading this book the bird seems nonsensical, like a random aspect of the book. But it’s not. The bird is a symbol for the absurdity of war, the answer for the unanswerable questions of war. In Pilgrim’s final vision of the city, “Billy and the rest wandered out onto the shady street. The trees were leafing out. There was nothing going on out there, no traffic of any kind. There was only one vehicle, an abandoned wagon drawn by two horses. The wagan was green and coffin-shaped. Birds were talking. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, ‘poo-tee-weet?’” (215). Another important symbol are the colors blue and ivory. Billy’s bare feet are very often described as blue and ivory, which are cool, corpse like hues. This represents the fragility between life and death (or worldly and otherworldly experiences). Before he was abducted, “Billy got out of bed in the moonlight. He felt spooky and luminous, felt as though he were wrapped in cool fur that was full of static electricity. He looked down at his bare feet. They were ivory and blue” (72). This blue image reoccurs with Pilgrim’s wife Valencia’s sudden death emphasizing again the fragility of life and death . “She was a heavenly azure” (183), is how she was described upon her surprising and sudden demise.
Although I have never read another anti-war novel, I have got to image Slaughterhouse-Five is different from any other. It takes such a controversial subject such as war and adds alien abduction and some of life’s greatest questions and stirs them together. This is why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. If one were to read this as a purely plot novel, they would get nothing out of the experience. It is to be viewed as a statement of humanity. I am going to take away a great deal from this novel. Although Tralfamadorian ideas seem to be a little out there, they are quite applicable to human life. Vonnegut affectively demonstrates an attitude for life that involves just taking it as it comes, and not dwelling on the aspects that we can’t change.
In the end, this book will stay with me for many years to come. Of course for Vonnegut’s entertaining plot, but also for his perspective on life.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385333849
Author:
Vonnegut, Kurt
Publisher:
Delta
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
World war, 1939-1945
Subject:
Classics
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one author)
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one auth
Subject:
Science fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Modern Library 100 Best Novels
Series Volume:
no. 1
Publication Date:
19990131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8 x 5.2 x 0.6 in 0.5 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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Slaughterhouse-Five Used Trade Paper
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Product details 288 pages Delta - English 9780385333849 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

What Kurt Vonnegut set out to do was write a book about war, and in particular the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. What he ended up doing was writing clean around it — traveling in and out of time warps, bouncing on and off the earth, sometimes setting down on the planet Tralfamadore, millions of miles away from Dresden and millions of miles away from war. What he created was a masterpiece of satire in which every crazy, clever moment, every whimsical line, no matter how deceptively light, is imbued with the sorrow and the starkness of the atrocity Vonnegut himself witnessed in that very real war.

"Review" by , "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has written one of the major novels of the year....Haunting....Irresistible reading....Poignant and hilarious, threaded with compassion and, behind everything, the cataract of a thundering moral statement."
"Review" by , "Highly imaginative, nearly psychedelic....It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; it is very Vonnegut; and it works."
"Review" by , "Splendid art and simplicity....Nerve-racking control....A funny book at which you are not permitted to laugh, a sad book without tears, a tale told in a slaughterhouse."
"Review" by , "What I...applaud is the marvelous comic scenes with the British prisoners of war; the control in the war scenes; the understated bitterness with which he handles the American soldiers....When Vonnegut stops preaching and is funny, I take him very seriously."
"Review" by , "Serious critics have shown some reluctance to acknowledge that Vonnegut is among the best writers of his generation. He is, I suspect, both too funny and too intelligent for many, who confused muddled earnestness with profundity. Vonnegut is not confused. He sees all too clearly....Only Billy's time-warped perspective could do justice to the cosmic absurdity of his life, which is Vonnegut's life and our lives."
"Synopsis" by , Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the worlds great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrims odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
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