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Failing at Slaughterhouse-Five

I admit it. I failed. I gave up. I tried Slaughterhouse-Five, and just because of the recurring appearance of three words, I gave in.


I was aware of the book prior to reading but it was never one that struck me as something I would enjoy. It is difficult to categorise the novel……….the essential components are the destruction of Dresden during the Second World War and the associated inhumanities perpetrated, couched in a science fiction/time travelling fugue that I know would somehow all make sense if only I made it all the way through the book.


The style is purposefully simple and direct but infused with irony and a weary resignation that is encapsulated by Vonnegut’s “So it goes” that bookends most moribund events.

The phrase appears about a 100 times in the book and I am sure this device was carefully crafted to convey cynicism and desensitization to human destruction and suffering and that literary scholars around the world marveled at how three simple words could elevate the novel to masterpiece status.


I felt that the author was trying to make me feel a certain way, a perversion of the “Show, Don’t Tell” maxim that every aspiring author has drilled into them. I wanted to think about how the events in the book made me feel rather than continuously being told, in effect, that suffering is inevitable, and acceptance is the only course of action to take. Similar phrases like “it is what it is” and particularly in Dublin parlance, “that’s the story”, just seem, lazy to me.


Then again, Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the most famous anti-war novels ever written so, caveat emptor I suppose.



Tally ho!

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