romancingtheclassics

One girl's journey to read the top 100 literature classics of all time in the space of 365 days, a quest for only the most foolhardy and brave

Recipe for a classic with a twist…

Take one mixing bowl and add:

– A scrawny, guileless and gutless American soldier/optometrist, an alien abduction and World War II

– Add a sprinkle of time travel and stir until well combined

– Fold in a loveless marriage, a fatalistic attitude and a life-long nemesis and knead until a soft consistency

– Cook in an oven on medium heat for 2 hours and then leave to cool

– Season to taste and sample the final result in one sitting – Kurt Vonnegut’s, Slaughterhouse Five

I suppose I should have known when I first bought it that it was going to be an unusual read. I only had to mention the title before the shop assistant became incredibly animated. He literally jumped on the spot and rattled off a raft of sci-fi authors and other works by Vonnegut. In between his breathless enthusiasm he got out that Slaughterhouse was one of his favourites and what did I think of it? Was I re-reading it?

When I told him that I’d never read any of his work before and that I was just re-educating myself on the classics he dropped me like a hot plate. I read his face instantly. ‘She’s not one of my people.’

I practically had to force him to take my money for the book. I knew then, that this book wasn’t going to be any old classic book to tick off the list.

It was better.

Think The Time Traveller’s Wife set in WW2 with an alien abduction thrown in along the way. It’s beyond strange but completely enjoyable. The Time Traveller’s Wife simply pales in comparison.

Told from the view of a timid, often gutless and cowardly man, the book keeps coming back to the idea that life does not end with death, instead its about the living of moments. So as the plot develops it jumps back and forth, as Billy, the main character keeps reliving his time and time again.

It’s a fascinating read and I have deliberately not picked up another book since I finished it last Friday. I just wanted to savour the taste it left in my mouth. The thoughts and questions it probed at the reader really made me think about the past, present and future and all that intertwines.

How Vonnegut came up with the idea and flow of the book baffles me entirely. I’m struggling just with one linear story and plot. A jumble of experiences which flit back and forth in time would be overwhelming to try to capture and put into words.

It was one of the few books I’ve read that is written and told exactly the way life actually is. A jumble of experiences, moments and thoughts. All happening at once, with memories of the past interfering with the present and future.

It makes you think about everything that has led to the makings of who you are, small as well as dramatic moments and experiences. It made me think about what has turned me into the aspiring writer I am today and that the only thing stopping me from becoming not only an author but a successful one, is me.
xx

J

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4 thoughts on “Recipe for a classic with a twist…

  1. First, the poseur at the bookstore should have been thrilled that you had never read Vonnegut, and that you would experience that ‘holy-crap-I-love-this’ moment of discovery. Clearly, he had the good fortune to have had Vonnegut’s entire body of work read to him while still in the womb. Second, I love Vonnegut because to me, at least, his work is hard to categorize. I realized this the other day, while ticking off a list of my favorite writers by genre. Someone was missing, so I went through my list of favorite books, and there was Kurt, all by his lonesome. He simply did not fit anywhere. He is an American original. Dig in, and enjoy the flight! Mother Night is a big favorite. Come to think of it, they all are.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I couldnt agree more re Vonnegut. He’s completely undefinable. It makes for such a refreshing read. Looking fwd to reading more. Any more suggestions? Feel free to throw them my way. I can always add to the list!

    • A list of recos? Dear God. Well, here goes. Kurt V. rules. Anything by him. You may have read most of the following, or were forced to in high school or college, but here are some that come to mind, starting in no particular order or ranking, separated by too many semi and full-bore colons: Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad (parts of it made me laugh until I cried), Life on the Mississippi; of course Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer; Letters From the Earth, etc. Anything by Thurber and his ilk; The Magic Christian, by Terry Southern (a period piece, written in the fifties, but screamingly funny) and whatever you can find of his other works; Robert Benchley*, H.L. Mencken, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams; basically anything by the founding fathers, with more weight given to B. Franklin (funnier – I want to go out drinking with him sometime); of course Poe, Stevenson, O. Henry, yadda-yadda. Setting aside our Yanks: Rudyard Kipling’s works; anything by Conrad (holy crap, he didn’t learn English until his twenties!), very partial to his novel Nostromo; Three Men in a Boat, by Jeremy K. Jeremy (more funniness); P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster series (yet more fun – and he wrote the musical Anything Goes); Robert Graves’ I Claudius trilogy (read it three times), his early memoir Goodbye to All That (twice). And so on. A lot of humorists/satirists in there. I could go on for days. You know how it is. It’s an illness.

      *My favorite Benchley Bit: his publisher sent him to Venice to work up an article. On arrival, he promptly sent them a telegram: STREETS FLOODED. PLEASE ADVISE.

      • Thanks for that! I think some of these are definitely going to have to be tacked onto my epic list. Mark Twain is definitely on my to do list and love the comment re Benchley. Finding Eveyln Waugh’s tone quite satirical and sarcastic at the moment and loving it. Can’t wait to tackle some of these. Cheers for the tips!

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