Prolegomenon to a Reading Course on Karl Marx: Hoisted from the Archives

I recommend reading Kurt Vonnegut, as perhaps more relevant and informative for our times than he was for the post-WWII era in which he wrote. I found Mother Night striking me harder than Slaughterhouse 5, but mileage will vary:

Daniel Kennelly: A Triumphant Failure: "There’s nothing intelligent to say about a massacre, wrote Kurt Vonnegut of his book about the firebombing of Dresden. So why are we still reading it a half-century later?.... Re-reading Vonnegut’s collected works from the vantage point of 2019, I had the strange experience of believing that all along Slaughterhouse had somehow been reaching its way backward in time into Vonnegut’s literary career. It was as if the book were to Vonnegut what Billy’s wartime experiences became to him: a moment in time, trapped in amber, surfacing randomly in his work, unbidden, frequently unwelcome. Dresden haunted Vonnegut’s life, and Slaughterhouse haunted his career—this 'short and jumbled and jangled' book, a 'failure'. So how does an understanding of the three unique temporal perspectives contained in Slaughterhouse-Five—our own, Billy’s, and the Tralfamadorian one—help us appreciate this 'failure' of a book?.... We are the Tralfamadorians, collectively, creating nuclear weapons because 'if we don’t, someone else will'.... And we are Billy, each of us as individuals. We could stand up and yell, 'Don’t get on that plane! It’s going to crash!' But Billy 'didn’t want to make a fool of himself by saying so', and we don’t want to sound like fools either...

...What makes Slaughterhouse both a failure and a masterpiece is the fact that it’s an anti-war book that knows it’s engaged in a hopeless quest: “an anti-glacier book.” And despite it all, it laughs, and makes us laugh too.... At the end of the first chapter Vonnegut calls to mind the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in particular the fate of Lot’s wife. She knows the people back there behind her were bad, that the world is better off without them. She knows that God himself has warned her not to look back. Likewise the godlike Tralfamadorians counsel Billy to “concentrate on the happy moments of his life, and to ignore the unhappy ones—to stare only at pretty things as eternity failed to go by.” But trauma doesn’t work like that, for Billy or for us.... All in all not bad, as failures go...


#noted #2019-11-26

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