Sunday, September 24, 2006

Slaughter-House Five | Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

By some random customer from Amazon. But, I think this is the most accurate synopsis of this book.
"That the victims of the Dresden firebombing were, by and large, innocentbystanders caught in the cogs of a grisly machine called 'war' is irrefutable. That a man named Kurt Vonnegut was there, witnessed it from the ground-level(and below), and carried the psychological burden of it around with him foryears is obvious. That he was able to write such a brilliant book on such adark subject is, quite frankly, amazing.

On the surface, 'Slaughterhouse-Five' deals with the trials and tribulations ofone Billy Pilgrim, ophthalmologist and erstwhile WWII chaplain's assistant,whose life is apparently filled with more death and destruction than his mindhas the capacity for. At least, that's what his daughter thinks when Billystarts behaving erratically. Little does she know that he has become unstuckin time, experiencing his life in a random, non-linear fashion forever. SinceBilly has no way of knowing what will come next, all he can do is enjoy thegood moments when they come, and deal with the bad as best he can.Who can make sense of a life like that?
And in a larger sense Mr. Vonnegut asks us, who can make sense of a world wherepeople blow each other to bits for arbitrary reasons? What is there to say? It really is for the birds: poo-tee-weet.

Truly a masterpiece of 20th-century literature."

"It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this.
American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers to join the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers open their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everbody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their businesss to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve."


This from Teddy Roosevelt, "I could carve a better man out of a banana."

"...It was about an Eartling man and woman who were kidnapped by extra-terrestrials. They were put on display in a zoo on a planet called Zircon-212.
These ficticious people in the zoo had a big board supposedly showing stock market quotations and commodity prices along one wall of their habitat, and a news ticker, and a telephone that was supposedly connected to a brokerage on Earth. The creatures on Zircon-212 told their captives that they had invested a million dollars for them back on Earth, and that it was up to the captives to manage it so that they would be fabulously wealthy when they were returned to Earth.
The telephone and the big board and the ticker were all fakes, of course. They were simply stimulants to make the Earthlings perform vividly for the crowds at the zoo-to make them jump up and down and cheer, or gloat, or sulk, or tear their hair, to be scared shitless or to feel as contented as babies in their mothers' arms.
The Earthlings did very well on paper. That was part of the rigging, of course. And religion got mixed up in it, too. The news ticker reminded them that the President of the United States had declared National Prayer Week, and that everybody should pray. The Earthlings had had a bad week on the market before that. They had lost a small fortune in olive oil futures. So they gave praying a whirl. It worked. Olive oil went up."

"The master of ceremonies asked people to say what they thought the function of the novel might be in modern society, and one critic said, 'To provide touches of color in rooms with all-white walls.' "

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference."

"If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still-if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice."

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