I was an obnoxiously precocious little kid. I spent so much time reading and writing from grade school to high school, that I was socially retarded around girls up until I entered college. My love interests were novels, the paperbacks that seemed only to collect dust in my 6th grade classroom. Perhaps I was a bit on the pretentious side, as I often scoffed at my friends who picked up R.L. Stine books, or the girls who were glued to V.C. Andrews. They didn’t understand half of what was going on. Flowers In The Attic? Get out of here.
Oh, what a shock my little mind was in for when I started picking up Vonnegut. Can someone at age 11 / 12 really appreciate novels like this? Slaughterhouse 5? Breakfast of Champions? Sirens of Titan? Cat’s Cradle?
No, probably not. But I read them all anyway.
Slaughterhouse 5 was the first of Vonnegut’s works I read. The unique voice, the constant moving back and forth through time, and the odd humor scattered throughout, really altered my perceptions of literature. Books didn’t just have to entertain. They could teach you something, deliver a message, leave you in awe and with a sense of wonderment.
Maybe I read it because the original title of the book was Slaughterhouse 5: or The Children’s Crusade, A Duty-Dance With Death, and that whole children’s crusade bit interested me. I was a kid, what did I know.
Vonnegut passed away on Wednesday, while I was in my room, sitting by the window, reading Franz Kafka’s The Trial. I wonder, would I have been here, in Philadelphia, reading Western literature, German literature for that matter, if I hadn’t picked up that dusty novel with yellowed pages in my 6th grade library?
A mind wanders.
Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.