Trafalmadorians, Time, and Heaven

Missy, our kitten, is smacking her whiskers at the sight of my books. She thinks they are fabulous. I agree.

These two titles, Slaughterhouse Five, and The Divine Conspiracy, were books I started in 2018 and finished in 2019. I always have a few of these, and I always count them as read in the new year.

Vonnegut is this fashionable author, favored by the young and the old. Maybe I’m wrong, but he’s still very much revered and such a cult author.

A year ago I listened to a bit of Breakfast for Champions. I watch this movie, Boyhood, and the boy who was then in junior high, was talking to a girl in his school as they were walking home through a nice alley, and she candidly tells him that, like him, she too liked reading. I’m paraphrasing: I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and you?, I’m reading Breakfast for Champions, he replies.

His books pop up often at my Goodreads feed. so I tried, but Breakfast for Champions was too crude for me. Some books I just can’t read. This is one of them. And that says nothing, obviously, about the quality of the book. It’s simply not for me.

Maximilian, though, was the one who made me want to read this title instead, -not explicitly, but I decided to do so when I heard him say this book brought him to literature when he was an adolescent and his father recommended it to him. And I’m glad I gave this author another try. I was instantly drawn to this book. It’s fiction, but it’s strongly real. I appreciate Vonnegut’s skill to write a book that’s more than a book about the war. It’s the experience of the war at many levels, and the madness it left in those who experienced it first hand. I’m glad to have read it.

It’s very unique in its form, and though it may sound strange, it makes perfect sense, and it’s a mystery to me how I could connect with the odd events and characters in it. I didn’t know there’s a movie that was made three years after its publication. (I may try to watch it at one point).

There’s a strange point of convergence between Slaughterhouse Five and The Divine Conspiracy. I read Willard’s book in no less than nine months. The last chapters were very rewarding. They are the culmination of the rest of the book. Willard talks about the christian curriculum, the christian disciplines, and about heaven. There will be no time constrains in heaven. This is where I find a commonality with Vonnegut’s book. The Tralfamadorians are a fictional alien race in several of Vonnegut’s books. There’s no death for them, since they can see all events in their life, from birth to death, all at the same ‘time’. I will only do a poor job trying to recreate what we are told about this alien race and their different make up. I just thought that the description of time sounded like what it would be for an eternal being, or for us when we, as Willard says, move on to the eternal realm, which would be a continuation, or the beginning of unlimited life.

If all this sounds too crazy, or too confusing, it’s just my inadequacy to bring two amazing books to your consideration. Reading them will be a much better experience than my incomplete narration of what you’d find in them.

I believe I ended 2018, and started 2019 very solidly in terms of my reading. My idea of focusing on my own books for 2019, has being wonderful. It’s a pleasure to look at those books, write about them, and I appreciate all of you who have read any of them telling me how much you like them. Many of you love many of my picks, I know I’m going to love them too.

10 thoughts on “Trafalmadorians, Time, and Heaven

  1. Yo leí Matadero cinco este año pasado también, como lectura recomendada de un curso online. No me esperaba algo así. Es una lectura de esas que atrapa y que merece la pena mucho. Un beso.

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    1. Maria, ¡qué alegría verte por aquí! Te echo de menos, amiga. ¿Hiciste un curso que recomendaba el libro? Qué interesante. Yo tampoco me esperaba esto, me atrapó por completo, y merece la pena UN MONTÓN, estoy contigo. Besos .

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  2. I’m currently listening to Slaughterhouse Five. The narrator does such a good job, and I doubt I would have made it through the book by reading it. It’s very raw, and funnily enough I think the strong language belongs there. Definitely a book I can only listen to in the evening. I’ll have a look at the other title mentioned .

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    1. That’s interesting, I think that, to me, listening to the strong language would be more difficult than reading it. Either way, I’m glad to have read it, (I would be to have listened to it), it’s a book that merits to be experienced. I agree, the strong language belongs there 100%, and yes, it’s raw, but being about the war, that difficulty in the content and the strong language is justified. I’m sure it’s also justified in Breakfast for Champions, but the different topic loses me, and I can’t take that necessary distance, or perspective, and it totally sinks me into the lake of despond, and I just can’t stay in one piece. I’m glad there’s this title, and possibly a few more by him that I can appreciate.

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  3. I actually discovered Vonnegut for the first time this summer thanks to the ‘PBS Great American Read’. Growing up, I developed an aversion to anything ‘Literary’. Anything beloved of Literature academics, especially anything written between 1960 and 1980, I learned to avoid at all costs. For exhibit A see: ‘Catcher in the Rye’. For whatever reason, I always lumped Vonnegut into that category. Imagine my surprise when I saw a ‘Science Fiction’ sticker on the spine of one of his books. ‘Sirens of Titan’ was great, and now I’m left wondering what other authors I might have missed thanks to a few bad apples.

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    1. Sometimes I think my reading life consists on reclaiming authors I’ve completely missed due to aversions or biases I cultivated at different times in my life. Some of the books/authors I disliked for a non too well founded reason, have become ultimate favorites, (aka, Galdós.)

      Taking note of ‘Sirens of Titan’. Every year I like my dose of sf, and if it comes through him, I’m sure I’d be very pleased!

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      1. Even though Sirens is sci-fi, it is written in a way that I think makes it appealing to anyone. I would compare it to some of Ray Bradbury’s works or better yet to Douglas Adams (the latter especially). How the science and technology works is less important than the effect they have on the characters and plot. It doesn’t matter if a rocket runs on Uranium or magic dust; what matters is that it can get a person from Earth to Saturn.

        There is also a strong vein of comedy running through. Again, I would make the comparison to Adams (which makes sense; Vonnegut was one of his primary inspirations). The whole point of the story is individuals caught up in the machinations of a vast and uncaring universe. Somehow, Vonnegut takes what should have been a bleak, depressing story and leavens it with just the right amount of humor at the perfect moments.

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      2. You have convinced me completely. I am adding Sirens to my list, and I plan to read it soon. I have not read Adams, but he too is on my list, and Bradbury is a favorite author. What you described is right up my alley. Thanks for taking the time to tell me about the book. These are the recommendations I love.

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  4. Silvia: what a very interesting post; I would never have made this connection between Vonnegut and the Willard book but I absolutely see your point. I’d read Slaughterhouse Five as a teenager, liked it o.k. (but not more than that). I think it was a little over my head, especially his idea of time. Now, older and more mellow (I WON’T say “wiser”) I think that theme would resonant with me more. Perhaps I’ll try him again.

    P.S. Love Missy! She’s really licking those chops!

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    1. Vonnegut is fashionable among the young and wild, but probably, (as much of life), is best enjoyed at a more mature age. Aging, if nothing else pleasant, enhances anything we read, doesn’t it? Slaughterhouse is a book about pain, and the absurdity of the pain that happens among humans in a war environment that changes your psyche. There’s lots of gravity to it, in both senses, gravity as weight and as seriousness, and most of us when young, -even the old souls, and the more thoughtful teens, don’t have simply the miles than older age affords. That said, I still think it’s worth to attempt many of those great classics at a young age, regardless of our reasons. This reminds me to the youngsters at Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, they all boasted about having read lots of novels, the size and rigor of titles such as Daniel Deronda, (which I have not gotten to myself but plan to), novels that, were they all reading them for sure, they wouldn’t have had time to eat or sleep. 🙂 And Ishiguro says that in the book. (I bet he was also acquainted with this reading or pretending to have read x and y to impress, etc).

      It’s amazing, the connections that come to us when we are older. But it’s true. Time is a theological theme. Vonnegut doesn’t explore it as such, but his amazing inclusion of the Trafalmadorians, makes total sense at a real level. It’s like Rushdie’s magical elements, to some of us, they don’t stand out of the rest of what’s being narrated. Rushdie even says something like this, -I just listened-, about the truth of what he is narrating, a world that has room for more than what our immediate senses record in a traditional and agreed upon way. It’s a way of presenting reality that transcends the classical patterns we borrow from science, it’s a reality that speaks of what we feel at a not 100% conscious level, but not completely subjective either. Things not seen, yet things that we all know about, or relate to. As an immigrant, I’ve been visiting Madrid every three years for 18 years. I remember feeling a distortion, having problems finding myself there, observing my own self from the ‘outside’, the person I was when I lived there, but that I wasn’t anymore. Too much travel and changes, can confuse us, thus PTSD. And his idea of time is kind of mind blowing. I’m sure there’s treaties and PhD dissertations done on it. I’m not undermining the importance or relevance of those, I’m just interested on all this at a small scale, reading for me it’s a personal experience that I love to share with others as well as I like what others bring to the conversation.

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