Book Review: Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut

I really didn’t get into Vonnegut until the middle of college (this was about 5 or 6 years ago).  I only read about three books and initially, his writing style put me off.  I don’t know why, maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe it was his death, or maybe because something was telling me to give him another chance, but I bought this book, and I’m glad I did.

These are stories published posthumously.  Some of them funny (his speech at Clowes Hall), some were tragic (“Wailing Shall be in all Streets”), and some were thought provoking (“Just you and Me, Sammy”).

These stories are all about war and I’m sure there’s a moral behind each story.  However, I was just reading it for fun and wasn’t really searching for a moral.

I’ll mention a few here:

“Guns Before Butter” was funny.  It talks about these American prisoners and the Nazi officer who is supposed to watch them, but these American soldiers only talk about food and what they’re going to eat once they get home.  I laughed when the Nazi officer suggested that they talk about beer, smoking, or women.  Anything but food.

“Happy Birthday 1951” was interesting.  It tells a future but the future is so riddled with war that when the next generation comes in, they think of war as normal and anything peaceful as “against nature.”  Thus, if there ever is a peaceful moment, the kids start causing trouble just so that things are “normal” again.

By far, my favorite was “Just You and Me, Sammy.”  Vonnegut starts off by saying that this isn’t a war story, but a murder story.  It certainly was a murder story, but even though it is about a murder, Vonnegut comes out in the end saying “was this moral?”  I love it when stories do that!

I’m starting to appreciate Vonnegut lately and I’m hoping with more time, I get to read more of his stories.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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