Reexamining Vonnegut’s body of work as an adult:

Rereading Slaughterhouse-Five taught me two things about the novel: how great it really is, and what it’s really about. It’s not about time travel and flying saucers, it’s about PTSD. Vonnegut never explicitly negates the former possibility, but the evidence for the latter is overwhelming once you start to notice it. Billy Pilgrim, whose wartime experience closely parallels Vonnegut’s own, does not announce his abduction to the planet Tralfamadore, where he is displayed in a zoo and mated with the Earthling porn star Montana Wildhack—with the strong suggestion that he doesn’t imagine it, either—until after the plane crash that replays, in several respects, his wartime trauma. Despite the way we flesh them out in our minds into the semblance of a real story—as Vonnegut surely knew we would—the scenes on Tralfamadore add up to no more than a handful of discontinuous fragments: a moment in the flying saucer, a moment in the zoo and a few moments with Montana Wildhack, amounting altogether to scarcely ten pages. The whole scenario turns out to derive from a Kilgore Trout novel that Billy had read years before (as well as sharing plot points with The Sirens of Titan). And the compensatory nature of the wisdom Billy claims to learn up there is all too clear. The Tralfamadorians see in four dimensions, the fourth one being time. ‘The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past.’

“‘I Was There’: On Kurt Vonnegut.” — William Deresiewicz, The Nation

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