Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I like Kurt Vonnegut, but I don't agree with his politics. Still, he's a tremendously talented and entertaining writer whose work I've always enjoyed.

I've been a life-time film-buff, so it's a bit surprising that I've just gotten around to it, but I watched the film realization of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five tonight, published in 1969. There's plenty of objectionable content in this film, but it contains one of the most side-splitting mind-blowing car vignettes ever caught on celluloid, and you owe it to yourself to see it if only for that. Hell, DVR it and forward through to the car thing - you'll thank me.

There's something about car chases involving practically air-borne multi-ton hunks of American steel - we'll never again see their equal in mastery of the universe around them. A pity, really. Then again, if we're feeling sentimental, we can pop in this film, sit back and watch an unhinged hausfrau laying waste to all in her path with a circa '69-ish city-block sized Caddy. That's entertainment.

Regarding the bit I disagree with - the crux of this film takes place in Dresden, a quiet burgh chock-full of peace-loving Germans whom the Allies senselessly bombed the water out of in WW II. I understand the climate in which this novel was written, but I don't understand the point of revisionist history regarding WW II in order to justify saying "get us out of VietNam."

Every war sucks in obvious and tragic ways, but this doesn't mean war is never justified or necessary. Likewise, major military actions aren't always the wisest or most humanitarian options. However, one cannot definitively state that because Vietnam was a big ole effed up gray area, it follows that all wars are big effed up gray areas. Sometimes war is the only possible option.

For example, Hitler invading Poland was not a gray area.

I wish we lived in a world where lunatics weren't trying to kill big bunches of the rest of us at a time, but we don't get our druthers.

Perhaps Kenny Rogers said it best in Coward of the County when he said:
I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you've done
I walk away from trouble when I can
Now please don't think I'm weak, I didn't turn the other cheek
And papa, I should hope you understand
Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man


Anonymous said...

What a graet point!

phlegmfatale said...

*L* thanks LBB - Sometimes there's great wisdom in the biggest cornballs.

Kelly said...

I've only read one Vonnegut book and I can't even remember the name or what it was about.
I guess I wasn't that amused by it.

Maven said...

The amusing thing for me is, I never got into Vonnegut's sci-fi writing, and especially loved his "Man Without a Country" book. He's an acquired taste!

Thomas J Wolfenden said...

You've completely left out the parts where he was picked up by a UFO...

And I agree!

Zelda said...

Yeah. Except for Fascism, Naziism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Dictatorships and Genocide, war never solved anything.

FHB said...

Never read the book, but I've seen the flick a few times. Supposed to be based on Vonnegut's personal experience as a POW?

Yea, Dresden was a bummer, and we'd call it a war crime if it happened today, but that was then and we were pissed off as hell. So there.

I've just gotta say something about the best thing I remember in that movie... Valerie Perrine's chest. That bimbo helped a hell of a lot of us kids pull ourselves through puberty in the 70s. Remember "Steambath"? God bless her. Anyway, whatever happened to her?

Dick said...

I'm probably the biggest hater of war that you'll ever know.
I know what is does to people directly, not in print, not in video, not second hand, but direct impact.
It's a godawful, nasty, heinous business and some days I'm sorry I ever learned the art.

phlegmfatale said...

kelly - Welcome to the Monkey House is a good collection of his short stories, but I can understand someone not liking his work
nuggetmaven - I'm wondering if he's longing to be perceived as a latter-day Mark Twain - he even has that look down.

rangertom - that UFO stuff was seriously wonky

zelda - perfectly stated, as usual

fathairybastard - Wow - didn't know it was autobiographical. Well, you know, bummer about Dresden, but Hitler got that whole ball rolling. I'm happy for you and Valerie Perrine's bosom - you always remember your first love. And, uh, no, never heard of "Steambath." I don't think mom and pop took us to those kinds of movies.

big dick - Yes, it's a terrible thing, and I'm happy not to have your first-hand experience.

LJ said...

PF. You know that Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden during the bombing and subsequent firestorm? I once watched an interview with him where he talked about being unable to write about the experience for years. A friend's wife remarked, "Of course. You were just children then." And I believe the subtitle is "The Children's Crusade." He went back to write the book with that as the key - 18 and 19 year-olds going through horrific experiences they were unable to process.I don't know that it was an anti-Vietnam reference - although I'm sure Vonnegut probably leaned that way and probably said so - but my impression from various interviews is that it was an experience he needed to be able to frame in writing.
To go on far too long...I was sitting in the St. Louis airport a couple years back, waiting for my plane along with a couple dozen...boys. They were all tagged to show they were with the military (off to boot camp I think)...and I remember being struck by the fact that they looked like they were so young it seemed like their voices must barely have finished changing. What must it be like to face what they may face, so young?
But then I am off an age also to have seen the boys before - and the the effects on the men, afterwards.
It's a sad thing. War is not glorious.
Maybe that's part of what Vonnegut was saying.

phlegmfatale said...

lj - No, I didn't know that, and it makes more sense now that I know that. I'd estimate he was pretty messed up by the experience, considering the primary character felt more abused by fellow American soldiers than by the Germans. And yes, it's shocking to see how young most soldiers are - my heart goes out to them. No, war is not glorious.