This past Saturday was Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s birthday. Known for Breakfast of Champions and Slaughter-House Five, Kurt Vonnegut penned fourteen novels, three collections of short stories, five plays, and five works of non-fiction. He attended Cornell University, but dropped out in 1943 to join the Army. He was later deployed and was captured by the Germans, surviving the Dresden bombings. His feelings about war and the effects of war on those who fought, especially POWs, is a continuing theme in much of his work. Most notably in Slaughter-House Five, which was published in 1969. The antiwar message resonated with those who opposed the US involvement in Vietnam. The book was an instant success; it's my favorite Vonnegut. I read it for the first time earlier this year and I regret not having read it sooner. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, much like Vonnegut himself, is a POW of WWII. He has recently returned home and is struggling with PTSD and acclimating to life with his wife, friends, and family. The story is told through a series of flashbacks or, as Billy sees them, time travel experiences. These experiences are clearly Billy's way of coping with the atrocities of war and his PTSD. It's a weird but wonderful book.
Vonnegut passed away on April 11th, 2007 at the age of 84. So it goes. He left behind a collection of satirical novels on some difficult subjects, a list of fates worse than death, and he brought to life the character of Kilgore Trout. What more could we ask for?