Thursday evening June 7th we will kick off the summer season of The Artist’s Bookshelf by tackling one of my all-time favorites: Slaughterhouse-Five by the wonderfully droll and cynically hopeful Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
We’ll try to discuss the novel in the context of contemporary mythologies, and will tour the Mythologies gallery of the permanent collection at 6 p.m.
As always, we aim for a free-wheeling and wide-open discussion, but just in case you find yourself in need of some synapsal stimulation, we offer the following food for thought.
1) Whether we’re talking about contemporary design or post-modern lit, we’re still likely to hear the adage “form follows function.” What is the relationship between content and structure in this novel? Is the relationship artistically successful? Why or why not?
2) Vonnegut writes with the same bold strokes by which many painters of his era — the 1960’s — applied paint to canvas. What other similarities does his work share with the Pop Art movement?
3) How does Vonnegut use irony and black humor to aid in his thematic concerns?
4) Vonnegut utilizes elements of science-fiction throughout this work. Even the title sounds like a B-grade sci-fi movie. Why is he drawn to science-fiction as a literary form? How does it influence this particular work?
5) How does Vonnegut use the device of time-travel to further his thematic concerns?
6) Vonnegut uses the horrors of WWII, particularly the fire-bombing of Dresden, to make a strong statement against the absurd inhumanity of war in general, and the conflict in Viet Nam in particular. How well does his central thesis hold up against current U.S. military involvement in Iraq?
7) What is the intention of the repetitive use of the phrase “so it goes”? What is its cumulative effect?
All of this and more Thursday night.
So it goes.