So sue me. I re-read Slaughterhouse Five last week. I re-read it every year. So it goes.
I’m not going to get into my deep and undying love for this book. You already know all about that. What I would like to share is how this book came into my life.
I was working at a coffee shop as a barista the summer after I turned 20. That summer was actually one of the hardest of my entire life. I was dealing with some heavy stuff. So it goes. I loved working at the coffee shop though, because there was a recording studio above it (owned by the same people) and we had live music and musicians in the shop all the time. We also had a lot of artists coming by. One of those artists and I became fast friends. One day, we were talking and he brought up Kurt Vonnegut. I said I had never read anything of his before. The guy couldn’t believe it. It was like I dropped a bomb on his brain. The next day, he came in carrying a book. He handed it to me across the counter and said “Here. You need this more than I do.” It was his very worn, very old, copy of Slaughterhouse Five. Usually, manners would have led to me to resist taking his book. That day, however, my manners were nowhere to be found and I took it. I started reading it that night and stayed up the entire night to finish it. It was a revelation. To be funny and moral and sad and poignant- it seemed impossible to me before I read Slaughterhouse Five. Now, I knew it was not only possible, but that it had already been done.
The next time I saw him, I tried to return his book but he wasn’t having it. He told me it was mine to keep. “The first read isn’t even the best one. It gets better each time you read it.” He said. And you know something, he was right. So now, when I know someone is having a rough go of it, I don’t send flowers. I send Slaughterhouse Five.