I love Vonnegut’s style and his endearing cynical humanism, though I have to say that I do not see the human race as base and pointless as he does.
But I also have to confess that, while I’ve read almost all his books and can cite certain images and scenes from most of them, if you gave me a title and put a gun to my head, I’d be hard-put to describe to you the plot. His plots just seem to slide out of my memory as if on Teflon. Which is a kind of blessing, actually, because it means I can read and re-read them and always be moved by his simple, moving prose and his piercing observations about human character — or at least the darker side of human character.
This is at least the third time that I’ve read this book, and as a measure of my own simplicity of mind, it’s the first time I noticed that a character of some minor consequence is Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American-turned-Nazi who is the main character of Vonnegut’s “Mother Night,” which I’ve read probably four times. As Vonnegut would say, so it goes.
Anyway, I loved this book again as I have each previous reading. In an afterword to the audiobook version I read this time, Vonnegut describes the movie made from it as “one of the great pacifist movies”; but I do not see the book or the movie, which I’ve also seen, as “pacifist” so much as “anti-war,” although I guess its “nothing matters and what if it did” undertones qualify it at least as passive.
Whatever the case, the delicious language and spare style reinforced a commitment I’m making to read at least one Vonnegut a year for the rest of my life. Next, I believe I’ll take up “Breakfast of Champions,” which I’ve always thought of as my favorite of his books, though please don’t ask me to describe the plot. (Though I can tell you that its description of Veteran’s Day vs. Armistice Day in the preface is one of the great works of all literature.)