Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31: Dostoevsky, Time Leaping, Great Literature

Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn't science fiction.  He said that everything there was to know about life was in The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky.  "But that isn't enough any more," said Rosewater.

Certain books contain a lot of wisdom.  For Rosewater, that book is The Brothers Karamazov.  Dostoevsky's book tells Rosewater everything he needs to know about life and the human condition.  There are a lot of books like that in my life.  The Catcher in the RyeCharlotte's Web.  Certain books by Charles Dickens.  The World According to GarpSlaughterhouse Five.  All of these books have taught me something about the world as I know it.

I have read Slaughterhouse exactly four times in my life.  The first time, I was in sixth grade.  Second time, I was a sophomore in high school.  Third, I was in a graduate-level English class about metafiction.  That time, I actually wrote a paper on the book.  Now, I am reading it for a fourth time.  Slowly.  Transcribing each of Vonnegut's words into blog posts.

Every time I reread a book, I am a different person.  Therefore, the book speaks to me in different ways.  In sixth grade, I remember being excited about Billy's time leaping and flying saucer rides.  It was right around the time that the original Star Wars trilogy came out, so I was all about science fiction.  In college, I found Vonnegut's subversion of genres fascinating--that a book could be science fiction AND memoir AND historical fiction AND social protest.  Now, I find Vonnegut's own back story the most compelling element of the book.  His war experiences.

That's what is crazy about literature.  It morphs and adapts.  At least, great literature does.  That's why the story of Billy Pilgrim has endured for so long.  Because it speaks even in this time of Trump.  Tralfamadore seems more real than the Untied States of America right now (typo intentional).  Sometimes, I feel like an alien from outer space, watching things unspool in the White House.  I don't recognize this land that I live in, just like Vonnegut struggled in the 1960s and '70s. 

That's why books are so important.  They help make sense out of senselessness.  Or they provide a welcome break.

This evening, Saint Marty is thankful for the words of Kurt Vonnegut.

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