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Re-reading Slaughterhouse Five

Re-reading a book is a rarity for me. Why go back and read something when there are so many good books waiting to be read? For me to read a book a second time, it has to be off the charts good. In the last twenty years, as someone who has read 10-12 books a month, I might have read 5 books a second time.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut has now joined that list.

I first encountered Slaughterhouse Five twenty-two years ago. As a young newlywed, Friday nights consisted of going out to eat and then stopping at Hastings to see if we could find a movie to rent and maybe a book to buy.

I’d been through a Kerouac phase, having read all of his books, and was looking for something else. Nothing caught my attention until I reached the end of the fiction section and saw a series of paperback books by Kurt Vonnegut.

The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t recall where or why or how I’d heard of the author. I thumbed through a couple of different books. Slaughterhouse Five was identified as his best-selling and most popular book, so I decided to start with it.

I’m guessing it took me no more than a couple of days to read the book. How can you describe this very unique book? It’s about time travel, WW 2, the bombing of Dresden, love, children, philosophy, religion, man, existence, and everything else. It can be funny, sad, thought-provoking, and moving.

In short, Slaughterhouse Five is a masterpiece decrying the vanity of war and violence, the seriousness with which people take themselves, and the seeming vanity of existence.

The following Friday night, after another dinner out, I headed back to the fiction aisle where the Vonnegut books were displayed and bought a couple of more. I kept going back every Friday night until I’d purchased everything they had.

A couple of years ago, I went through a phase where I sold off eighty percent of my library, only keeping the books that mattered to me most. That stack of Vonnegut books made the cut.


Years have passed since I’ve picked up a book by Vonnegut. A month or two ago, I received an advance copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five: Bookmarked by Curtis Smith. The Bookmarked series is intended as a set of books where one writer writes about another book that has left an inedible impression. Reading Smith’s account brought back memories of the joy I’d found in reading Vonnegut’s work. I decided to pick up Slaughterhouse Five again.


Some things were familiar. Kilgore Trout, the infamous science fiction writer. The Tralfamadorians, who are outer space creatures who capture Billy Pilgrim. WW2. Concentration camps. The bombing of Dresden. The flitting back and forth in time.

But other parts were like reading the story for the first time.

This time, I paced myself through the book, restricting myself to a few pages at a time, making sure to enjoy and appreciate the writing.¬†Vonnegut is a writer like no other. He possessed a unmatched voice and writing style along with a unique perspective on life and living. I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five so much, I’ve begun to delve into some of those other Vonnegut books in my possession.

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