Rereading “Slaughterhouse-Five”

Piazza Navona, Roma, Italia

I first heard of the book Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) when, as a kid, my siblings and I would often watch a VHS copy of the film Footloose (1984) that makes mention of the book at the film’s beginning.

But that movie doesn’t mention the author. So I first heard of the name Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) when I was in college and he was interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show in 2005. At the time, there were certain mannerisms from Stewart that made this viewer think Vonnegut was, for Stewart personally, one of the most important interviews he’d ever done.

I first read Slaughterhouse-Five during the weekend of my sister’s wedding, about twelve years ago. Before then I had never heard about what happened at Dresden.

But now, holed up at home, I found my great-grandfather’s copy and read it over this past weekend.

I’d been wanting to reread a particular passage in the sixth chapter that has stuck with me since the first reading.

It’s just a few paragraphs about maintaining order and routine and self-respect and dignity:

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Advice for when working from home.

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I found no deeper meaning in the passage this second time around, though the book overall seems more poignant now in my memory than it did before.

But I still don’t know what to think of the novel overall: it is comedy and misery and absurdity and truth all thrown at the reader in a scatter-shot style.

I did, however, notice in this second reading, how much of a Midwestern book it is, by a Midwestern author. This geographic significance is what I’ll retain as I continue my readings and eventually compare it to other things from the Midwest that I’ve read or intend to (re)read.


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