Just finished this.
Slaughterhouse-Five is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW who has, in the later stage of his life, become "unstuck in time" and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously.
Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralfamadorians, who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The "unstuck" nature of Pilgrim's experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder; then again, Pilgrim's aliens may be as "real" as Dresden is real to him.
Struggling to find some purpose, order, or meaning to his existence and humanity's, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author's best character name), has a child with her, and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralfamadorians, Montana Wildhack, and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence.
One of those titles you always hear about, but for some reason I hadn't gotten around to reading. Glad I did. Loved the drifting in and out of time periods. That's quite hard to pull off whilst still taking the reader with you. Vonnegut managed it perfectly. Highly recommend.
The story of the Children's Crusade was interesting, and a part of history I didn't know about.
The part about pornography and photography carried rather an echo of The Poignancy of Old Pornography.
The stills were a lot more Tralfamadorian than the movies, since you could look at them whenever you wanted to, and they wouldn’t change. Twenty years in the future, those girls would still be young, would still be smiling or smouldering or simply looking stupid, with their legs wide open. Some of them were eating lollipops and bananas. They would still be eating those. And the peckers of the young men would still be semi-erect, and their muscles would be bulging like cannonballs.
The book also brought back interesting memories for me. I once drove to Dresden just to look at it. It's one of those places you grow up hearing about.
“As you know, I am from a planet that has been engaged in senseless slaughter since the beginning of time. I myself have seen the bodies of schoolgirls who were boiled alive in a water tower by my own countrymen, who were proud of fighting pure evil at the time.” This was true. Billy saw the boiled bodies in Dresden. “And I have lit my way in a prison at night with candles from the fat of human beings who were butchered by the brothers and fathers of those schoolgirls who were boiled. Earthlings must be the terrors of the Universe!”
Obviously, you don't read a book like this without looking up the author.
He was interned in Dresden, where he survived the Allied bombing of the city in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned.
So it goes...