The Writer's Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five

The Writer's Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five

by Tom Roston
The Writer's Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five

The Writer's Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five

by Tom Roston


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Journalist Tom Roston’s The Writer’s Crusade is the story of Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse-Five, an enduring masterpiece on trauma and memory.

“A book about time; or, put another way, a book about how Pilgrim (and Vonnegut) became unstuck in time and how this ‘unsticking’ created Slaughterhouse-Five . . . Roston [casts] himself as part literary scholar and part psychoanalytic sleuth.” —Washington Post

Kurt Vonnegut was 20 years old when he enlisted in the United States Army. Less than two years later, he was captured by the Germans in the single deadliest US engagement of the war, the Battle of the Bulge. He was taken to a POW camp, then transferred to a work camp near Dresden, and held in a slaughterhouse called Schlachthof Fünf where he survived the horrific firebombing that killed thousands and destroyed the city.

To the millions of fans of Vonnegut’s great novel Slaughterhouse-Five, these details are familiar. They’re told by the book’s author/narrator and experienced by his enduring character Billy Pilgrim, a war veteran who “has come unstuck in time.” Writing during the tumultuous days of the Vietnam conflict, with the novel, Vonnegut had, after more than two decades of struggle, taken trauma and created a work of art, one that still resonates today.

In The Writer’s Crusade, author Tom Roston examines the connection between Vonnegut’s life and Slaughterhouse-Five. Did Vonnegut suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Did Billy Pilgrim? Roston probes Vonnegut’s work, his personal history, and discarded drafts of the novel, as well as original interviews with the writer’s family, friends, scholars, psychologists, and other novelists including Karl Marlantes, Kevin Powers, and Tim O’Brien. The Writer’s Crusade is a literary and biographical journey that asks fundamental questions about trauma, creativity, and the power of storytelling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419744891
Publisher: Abrams Press
Publication date: 11/09/2021
Series: Books About Books
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 669,686
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Journalist Tom Roston worked at The Nation and Vanity Fair and was a senior editor at Premiere for more than a decade. His work has appeared in the New York Times, New York magazine, LitHub, and more. He is the author of two previous books, I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmaker’s Oral History of a Vanished Era and The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World. He lives in Brooklyn.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Kurt Vonnegut, Nazi Shyer! 1

Chapter 2 Slaughterhouse-Five and the PTSD Prism 19

Chapter 3 The Road to Dresden 27

Chapter 4 Onwards and Upwards 37

Chapter 5 Writing Slaughterhouse-Five, or, This Lousy Little Book 52

Chapter 6 A Reading of Slaughterhouse-Five, or, Stopping a Glacier 69

Chapter 7 What Really Happened to Vonnegut in World War II, or, the War Parts, Anyway 85

Chapter 8 A History of War Trauma 95

Chapter 9 A PTSD Primer and an Infinite Jester 123

Chapter 10 What's Wrong with Billy? 144

Chapter 11 Diagnosing Mr. Vonnegut 156

Chapter 12 Kurt, After the Crusade 174

Chapter 13 Slaughterhouse-Five's Place in History (Despite That Whole Timelessness Thing) 188

Chapter 14 One Last Joke 211

Author Note 223

A Non-Tralfamadorian Timeline of Vonnegut's Life 229

Notes 233

Bibliography 249

Index 253

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