Embarrassingly, I do not read a lot of literary fiction. If it’s not a graphic novel or an adaptation of a classic fairy tale, my attention span is just pathetic.
That does not mean, in my own defense, that I do not appreciate and love the written word. Sure, I’m lazy sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t linger lovingly over a perfect metaphor.
Slaughterhouse-Five was put off by me in two ways: 1) I was supposed to read it in college, but never did and 2) it took me 3 weeks to sit down and finish the 200+ word novel. Shame Caitlin, shame.
This is not to say that I did not appreciate the novel for the reasons most people love it – it is a scattered study of life, discussing the atrocity of war, death and the human experience in an almost apathetic way. Life is something that happens to everyone, and then we die. “So it goes,” says Vonnegut.
The non-linear narrative tried my attention span, but served as a reminder that life is a series of unchangeable experiences.
“Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does.”
My favorite part of the novel is that Vonnegut has his way with description – he paints a picture so precise that you can’t help but stop reading and roll the filthy good metaphor around in your head.
Not convinced? Try how he describes dinner: “The soup was thick. Primeval bubbles surfaced it with lethargical majesty as Billy Pilgrim stared.”
Or here’s one so rich, you can practically wallow in the stank: “Those beloved, frumpish books gave off a smell that permeated the ward – like flannel pajamas that hadn’t been changed for a month, or like Irish stew.” I know we all know the smell of musty, old book.
Did I like it enough to pick up another of his novels? I think so. I doubt it will keep me from the literary trash I prefer, but the existential pause is nice every now and then.