Saturday, September 20, 2008

Slaughterhouse - Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I read this book several years ago, but I could never remember enough about it to pin-point any reason why I liked it. I read a ton of Vonnegut books all in a row, and they began to run together in my head, so that I could only remember bits and pieces about each individual book. I read Slaughterhouse-Five again for my Intellectual Freedom class this semester. It is amazing how many classics have been challenged in one way or another over the years. Sometimes I can understand, I mean this was written as an adult book. I can see why that may be of concern to some parents. What I think parents don't realize, however, is that by bringing a challenge to a book you are pressing your moral opinions about the world on everyone else, not just your own children. Actually, I think they are probably well aware of that fact, and they for some reason believe that they are qualified to dictate how other people's kids should be raised.
Here are some of the reasons that have been used for challenging the book:
  • Challenged at the Owensboro, Ky. High School library (1985) because of "foul language, a section depicting a picture of an act of bestiality, a reference to 'Magic Fingers' attached to the protagonist's bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: 'The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty."
  • Challenged at the LaRue County, Ky. High School library (1987) because "the book contains foul language and promotes deviant sexual behavior'.
  • Challenged in the Baton Rouge, La. public high school libraries ( 1988) because the book is "vulgar and offensive'.
These facts and others about this and other challenged books can be found at, and these come specifically from this link.
So, to actually review the book I'm not sure what to say. I enjoy Vonnegut's writing style, and I love the way he uses fiction to expose the hypocrisies that are such a part of our existence as Americans. This book was written in 1969, and it is still so true to the world we live in. I don't really feel that it has lost anything over the past 40 years. Maybe that is what makes this book such a classic, the fact that it retains its meaning; it still speaks to our human condition, and its brilliance is not at all dimmed by the passage of time. The best satire only gets better as time passes, and I think Slaughterhouse-Five is a perfect example of that fact.

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