Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade, A Duty-Dance with Death

Last week I was reading the third volume of Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu: The Guermantes Way. And it’s brilliant. I can see how people think Marcel Proust is the greatest writer who ever lived. He’s unique, and if the way he’s unique tickles your fancy, he’s your boy. But I was having a rough slog going through another one of the fashionable salons where everybody starts to blend together into one, mostly contemptible, lot.

It was enough to send me searching for something completely different. In a book store in Grand Central Station I ran into an old friend named Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

My favorite writers – Vonnegut, Dostoyevsky, and Poe – all write about the same thing: insanity. The insanity of individuals and the collective insanity we’ve created and named reality.  The Telltale Heart and Crime and Punishment go to places that still freak me out. But the book that changed me, when I was still in high school, was Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. To this day, I’ve never read a better book.

Consider this:

Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn’t science fiction. He said that everything there was to know about life was in The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. “But that isn’t enough anymore,” said Rosewater.

Followed immediately by:

Another time Billy heard Rosewater say to a psychiatrist, “I thing you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren’t going to want to go on living.”


Q:  What’s the largest three-day massacre in the history of Europe? Hint:

A: If you guessed The Fire-Bombing of Dresden, advance your piece three spaces. Well done.

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