So it goes.

August 18, 2010

This author has been in my head for a long time. My first read by him was so good that it took me way too long to read. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it was open on page 80 until I was on public transportation where a computer wasn’t available to distract me – I started devouring it then. This book is sensitive, it makes me cringe, it’s very uniquely written – there are no extraneous words, each one enhances the scene or emotion or description. That fascinates me. Here is a taste. (As a sidenote: the main character of this book, Billy Pilgrim, has no sense of time.) Well, this was written after I typed up all the excerpts. I realize I gave you all more than a taste…I gave you a meal. It’s a good one though, please try it. I bolded my favorite parts if you’re not hungry enough for all of these words. Or, you know, you could just go check out the book and read the entire thing.

Excerpt #70:
From there he traveled in time to 1965. He was forty-one years old, and he was visiting his decrepit mother at Pine Knoll, an old people’s home he had put her in only a month before. She had caught pneumonia, and wasn’t expected to live. She did live, though, for years after that.
Her voice was nearly gone, so, in order to hear her, Billy had to put his ear right next to her papery lips. She evidently had something very important to say.
“How…?” she began, and she stopped. She was too tired. She hoped that she wouldn’t have to say the rest of the sentence, that Billy would finish it for her.
But Billy had no idea what was on her mind. “How what, Mother?” he prompted.
She swallowed hard, shed some tears. Then she gathered energy from all over her ruined body, even from her toes and fingertips. At least she had accumulated enough to whisper this complete sentence:
“How did I get so old?” (44)

Excerpt #71:
Billy Pilgrim, there in the creekbed, thought he, Billy Pilgrim, was turning to steam painlessly. If everybody would leave him alone for just a little while, he thought, he wouldn’t cause anybody any more trouble. He would turn to steam and float up among the treetops.
Somewhere the big dog barked again. With the help of fear and echoes and winter silences, that dog had a voice like a big bronze gong.
Roland Weary, eighteen years old, insinuated himself between the scouts, draped a heavy arm around the shoulder of each. “So what do the Three Musketeers do now?” he said.
Billy Pilgrim was having a delightful hallucination. He was wearing dry, warm, white sweatsocks, and he was skating on a ballroom floor. Thousands cheered. This wasn’t time-travel. It had never happened, never would happen. It was the craziness of a dying young man with his shoes full of snow. (49)

Excerpt #72:
Even though Billy’s train wasn’t moving, its boxcars were kept locked tight. Nobody was to get off until the final destination. To the guards who walked up and down outside, each car became a single organism which ate and drank and excreted through its ventilators. It talked or sometimes yelled through its ventilators, too. In went water and loaves of black bread and sausage and cheese, and out came shit and piss and language.
Human beings in there were excreting into steel helmets which were passed to the people at the ventilators, who dumped them. Billy was a dumper. The human beings also passed canteens, which guards would fill with water. When food came in, the human beings were quiet and trusting and beautiful. They shared. (70)

Excerpt #73:
Now he was indoors, next to an iron cookstove that was glowing cherry red. Dozens of teapots were boiling there. Some of them had whistles. And there was a witches’ cauldron full of golden soup. The soup was thick. Primeval bubbles surfaced it with lethargical majesty as Billy Pilgrim stared. (95)

There was silence now, as the Englishmen looked in astonishment at the frowsy creatures they had so lustily waltzed inside. One of the Englishmen saw that Billy was on fire. “You’re on fire, lad!” he said, and he got Billy away from the stove and beat out the sparks with his hands.
When Billy made no comment on this, the Englishman asked him, “Can you talk? Can you hear?”
Billy nodded.
The Englishman touched him exploratorily here and there, filled with pity. “My God – what have they done to you, lad? This isn’t a man. It’s a broken kite.”

Excerpt #74:
Derby described the incredible artificial weather that Earthlings sometimes create for other Earthlings when they don’t want those other Earthlings to inhabit earth any more. Shells were bursting in the treetops with terrific bangs, he said, showering down knives and needles and razorblades. Little lumps of lead in copper jackets were crisscrossing the woods under the shellbursts, zipping along much faster than sound.
A lot of people were being wounded or killed. So it goes.
Then the shelling stopped, and a hidden German with a loudspeaker told the Americans to put their weapons down and come out of the woods with their hands on top of their heads, or the shelling would start again. It wouldn’t stop until everybody in there was dead.
So the Americans put their weapons down, and they came out of the woods with their hands on top of their heads, because they wanted to go on living, if they possibly could. (106-107)

Excerpt #75:
“Dresden was destroyed on the night of February 13, 1945,” Billy Pilgrim began. “We came out of our shelter the next day.” He told Montana about the four guards who, in their astonishment and grief, resembled a barbershop quartet. He told her about the stockyards with all the fenceposts gone, with roofs and windows gone – told her about seeing little logs lying around. There were people who had been caught in the fire storm. So it goes.
Billy told her what had happened to the buildings that used to form cliffs around the stockyards. They had collapsed. Their wood had been consumed, and their stones had crashed down, had tumbled against one another until they locked at last in low and graceful curves.
“It was like the moon,” said Billy Pilgrim.

The guards told the Americans to form in ranks of four, which they did. Then they had them march back to the hog barn which had een their home. Its walls still stood, but its windows and roof were gone, and there was nothing inside but ashes and dollops of melted glass. It was realized then that there was no food or water, and that the survivors, if they were going to continue to survive, were going to have to climb over curve after curve on the face of the moon.
Which they did.

The curves were smooth only when seen from a distance. The people climbed them learned that they were treacherous, jagged things – hot to the touch, often unstable – eager, should certain important rocks be disturbed, to tumble some more, to form lower, more solid curves.
Nobody talked much as the expedition crossed the moon. There was nothing appropriate to say. One thing was clear:
Absolutely everybody in the city was supposed to be dead, regardless of what they were, and that anybody that moved in it represented a flaw in the design. There were to be no moon men at all. (179-180)

Excerpt #76:
(Billy has fallen asleep in the wagon while the rest have gone to search for souvenirs on what they called home before the fire-bombing on Dresden.)
Billy Opened his eyes. A middle-aged man and wife were crooning to the horses. They were noticing what the Americans had not noticed – that the horses mouths were bleeding, gashed by the bits, that the horses’ hooves were broken, so that every step meant agony, that the horses were insane with thirst. The Americans had treated their form of transportation as thought it were no more sensitive than a six-cylinder Chevrolet.

These two horse pitiers moved back along the wagon to where they could gaze in patronizing reproach at Billy – at Billy Pilgrim, who was so long and weak, so ridiculous in his azure toga and silver shoes. They weren’t afraid of him. They weren’t afraid of anything. They were doctors, both obstetricians. They had been delivering babies until the hospitals were all burned down. Now they were picnicking near where their apartment used to be.
The woman was softly beautiful, translucent from having eaten potatoes for so long. The man wore a business suit, necktie and all. Potatoes had made him gaunt. He was as tall s Billy, wore steel-rimmed trifocals. This couple, so involved with babies, had never reproduced themselves, thought they could have. This was an interesting comment on the whole idea of reproduction.
They had nine languages between them. They tried Polish on Billy Pilgrim first, since he was dressed so clownlishly, since the wretched Poles were the involuntary clowns of the Second World War.
Billy asked them in English what it was they wanted, and they at once scolded him in English for the condition of the horses. They made Billy get out of the wagon and come look at the horses. When Billy saw the condition of his means of transportation, he burst into tears. He hadn’t cried about anything else in the war. (196-197)

-Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut


One comment

  1. Many thanks for taking free time in order to create “So it goes.
    Literary Quotes”. Thanks yet again -Flor

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