“Slaughterhouse Five,” Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel, is Book Talk’s choice for its Sept. 10 meeting at Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library, 1515 W. Main in Durant.
Matt Swearengin, news editor of the Durant Daily Democrat, will lead the 7 p.m. discussion.
The book is Vonnegut’s absurdist look at his own experience of being held as an American prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany, during the Second World War, where he witnessed the February 1945 firebombing that killed thousands of civilians and leveled the city’s historic center.
Vonnegut portrays the prisoner-of-war experience through the eyes of Billy Pilgrim, whose story moves through time and space in a sometimes-tragic, sometimes-funny plea for humanity in people’s behavior toward each other.
Swearengin has a long-time interest in Vonnegut and particularly in this novel. His late father, Bob Swearengin, introduced him to the novel more than 30 years ago. Matt’s dad taught English at Southeastern from 1991 until his illness in the late 1990s. “Slaughterhouse Five” was a part of his curriculum.
“Vonnegut was dad’s favorite author, and he gave me the book to read when I was in high school,” Swearengin said. “I started reading the novel again upon finding dad’s copy which contains many passages he highlighted. I’ve read it several times during the past few years, and each time, I come away with a new understanding of Vonnegut’s witty, yet serious writing.”
The book, combined with Matt’s strong interest in World War II history, motivated him to visit Dresden earlier this year. It was an experience he describes as “moving and powerful.”
“The ruins of Dresden were rebuilt after the war, but the scars remain, and you can clearly see the damage to the buildings,” Swearengin said. “I was fortunate to learn of a tour that takes you to the site of Slaughterhouse Five on the outskirts of the city where Vonnegut and other American POWs survived the bombing by taking shelter in an underground meat locker.
“The Dresden visit combined sadness and happiness. I had thoughts of my late father, and leading this discussion for Book Talk will be in memory and honor of him.”
The September meeting begins a new season of Book Talk, which meets monthly except for December and the summer months. The group reads and discusses a variety of fiction and non-fiction, and its discussions are open to the public.
Copies of Book Talk monthly selections are available for purchase at the library service desk, never costing more than $10.
Article submitted with information added by Matt Swearengin.