Thursday, June 14, 2007

Slaughterhouse Five

There are no telegrams on Tralfamadore. But you're right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message -- describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamordians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.

That's right, folks. The latest selection for our nicely growing book club is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969). This was the first of Vonnegut's books that I ever read, and that was back in junior high. All I remembered about it was something about WWII and that I liked it. Well, my memories of the book were totally on target, although there is a little more going on than just something about WWII.

In this book, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. He floats around between his service in the war, his time as a German prisoner of war, the firebombing of Dresden, his marriage, his work as an optometrist, his abduction by aliens, his speaking career, and his death. Not necessarily in that order. Although he started jumping around in time much earlier, it wasn't until he met up with the Tralfamordians (see above, where they describe their literature) that he learned of their different perspective on time, which made his jumping around make a lot more sense.

In a strange coincidence, I've just been reading some articles on quantum physics and the notion of time that pretty much say the exact same thing as the Tralfamordians. Maybe they are onto something?

I won't say too much more, since the bookclub hasn't met yet, but if it's been awhile since you've read this book as well, you should pick it up again.

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