It’s been fifty years since Delacorte Press first published Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five, on March 31, 1969. The novel’s popularity and influence continue to this day, and though Vonnegut, in the book’s long introduction, described it as “a failure, and it had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt,” Slaughterhouse-Five remains Vonnegut’s ultimate achievement, a unique blending of time, tragedy, and trauma with the tropes of science fiction and the steady beats of black comedy. As Todd F. Davis writes in Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade: Or, How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism: “Slaughterhouse-Five, born out of one man’s honest and human response to the carnage of our brutality, out of his rage against the sickness of war, endures as a paragon of post-modern morality.”
In celebration of the novel’s 50th anniversary, Literary Hub recently featured the best 50 covers from around the word. A personal favorite is the giraffe from the Dutch edition published in 1970. Thanks to Literary Hub’s Emily Temple for tracking down the covers.
The New York Times published a reflection by Kevin Powers in which Powers describes the novel as “wisdom literature.”
The Guardian newspaper continues its Slaughterhouse-Five Reading Group with an exploration of how Vonnegut blurs time to increase the power of reality.
A new book by David O. Dowling, A Delicate Aggression: Savagery and Survival in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Yale University Press), includes a chapter on Vonnegut’s tenure teaching in the workshop. It was during this time that Vonnegut worked on Slaughterhouse-Five, and Dowling explores how Vonnegut’s inclusion in this elite environment, after so many years as a “genre hack,” influenced the writing of his future classic. The New York Times featured a recent review.
Finally, an engaging and effective blend of music and Vonnegut’s own reading from Slaughterhouse-Five: “Tock Tick.”