As I previously reported, I’m reading Kurt Vonnegut‘s “Slaughterhouse-Five” in honor of Banned Books Week. I’d hoped to have finished the book (a slim volume) by today so I could review it, but too many other tasks with higher priority have intervened, so I’m only up to page 65.
I can report that the book is beautifully and tightly written and draws the reader in. From reading this editorial, and since the characters in the book are, after all, soldiers on a wartime front, I’d expected plenty of profanity. At this point, though, there’s been hardly any. I’ve leafed through the remainder to see if the language becomes more profane, but I’m not seeing many four-letter words in the rest, either, in contrast to what the editorial’s author alleged.
True, the content has some horrifying stuff–but the book is about war, and war is, after all, horrifying. I can’t think of any good reason to sweep that under the rug. Shouldn’t we who are fortunate enough not to have participated in battles or lived where wars have recently taken place educate ourselves about what those who haven’t been so lucky have had to endure? Vonnegut knew what he was writing about, having survived the 1945 firestorm of Dresden when he was an American POW.
An excerpt from Vonnegut’s “Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage” in which Vonnegut reacts to his book’s being burned in a North Dakota school furnace by the janitor, at the school board’s direction, is here. (Hat tip: Laurie Halse Anderson.)
The Guardian has a quiz so you can test your knowledge of banned books.