Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Last week my monthly book club met. Sometimes we choose to read “an author” rather than a specific book. Last year it was Ray Bradbury. This year we discussed Kurt Vonnegut‘s work. Members of our group had never read his work before; other members have read everything, often as soon as it was published.
I was one who fell in the middle. I had read Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions before now. I added Bluebeard this month and re-read Slaughterhouse-Five. I also have an old copy of World’s Best Science Fiction 1969 collection. Vonnegut’s short story, “Welcome to the Monkeyhouse” is in it.
Our discussion was, as usual, fascinating and all over the place. Bring 15 or 20 readers together and you’re going to hear many different opinions. Vonnegut’s work isn’t easy or straightforward. It’s satirical, funny, cynical, passionate, confusing… The adjectives range across the board.
Most of us had read Slaughterhouse-Five, so that is the one we discussed the most. I bought my own copy this time and made notes throughout the book. The strong anti-war sentiment was especially timely when this was first published in the late 1960’s. It’s interesting that even 40 years later the firebombing of Dresden is still only a small note in history. Yet this novel points out how horrendous it was.
If you want to challenge yourself, read some of Kurt Vonnegut’s work. But which one should you read first? Hmmm, one member says Cat’s Cradle, another says Slaughterhouse-Five, and another says his short stories, perhaps the collection under the title Welcome to the Monkey House. If you want straight forward stories, start with the short stories. Otherwise, in my opinion, try Breakfast of Champions.