tv Tom Roston The Writers Crusade CSPAN April 22, 2022 5:08am-6:12am EDT
out of the time. we have been coming out of the last year and a half. so we are really appreciate you guys being here and i'm glad you can be here virtually even if you couldn't have been in real life. so we really appreciate that a couple things to note at the bottom of your screen. you'll see a green button this is by the writer's crusade, that would be lovely. of course, press that button to buy the book. you'll also see a little button that says ask a question. so we encourage you to of course ask questions drop them in there as you think of them and that towards the end of the of the hour. we'll go through and answer some of those questions for you. that's really it for me. i will tell you a little bit about three people on your screen and then i will leave it leave at the top. so tom rosson has worked at the nation and vanity fair. he's a senior editor a premiere for more than a decade. his work has appeared in the new york times, new york magazine lit hub and more. author of two previous books. i lost it at the video store of filmmakers oral history and the most spectacular restaurant in the world. he is in brooklyn. the other gentleman was matthew molina. he's an iraq war veteran. he's published in the new york times slate newsweek in the
brooklyn rail. he is working on his first novel and this lovely woman is suzanne mcconnell. she is co-authored vonnegut's book on craft pity the reader. she is the fiction editor of the bellevue literary review. mcconnell was a student of vonneguts at the iowa writers workshop from 1965 to 1967. and we just learned while we were in the green room that she was a scholar facilitator at va hospitals. so that's super interesting and i hope to hear more about it. thank you all for joining us. i will leave the screen and leave you guys to it. thank you so much. and remember ask a question. we'll get we'll get to later. thanks penny. so, yeah, thank you all for being here this is very very exciting for me we've had a bunch of good events and we have another one on thursday with the book and public library this thursday and then on november 30th, i'll be doing teaching a seminar for three weeks with the 92nd street y and but tonight is i come up with the title. it's full meta jacket. get it full metal jacket because
we're talking about war and we're talking about going meta we're talking about how kurt vonnegut approached the issue of war by using metafiction. and so, you know, i'm gonna let's come to give you a baseline about what meta fiction is. okay. let me just read you. it's fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literaryness of a work. by paritying or departing from the novelistic conventions. and traditional narrative techniques so kurt vonnegut did with slaughterhouse spot was to try to find a way to tell a true war story and he didn't just tell a story. in fact, i'm going to quote someone else. i'm gonna quote jerry clinkowitz on this a great bond against against scholar. he said that slaughterhouse-five. is principally a book about itself. about itself being written and itself being read.
and what this is about is kurt wanted to try to write a true war story, but he realized that most war stories were alive because they glorified more. and he had to figure out a way to do that and he used metafiction as a principal way to get into it and to reveal that that this can't we can't enjoy a story about war and so he positioned himself in his story very briefly. i'll just say slaughterhouse five he curvaga wrote that in 1969. he had gone to war in 1945 in world war two it took him 23 years to write this book. and it's very much a story that parallels his own experiences during world war two, but then there's all this other queries you stuff where he where billy pilgrim the main character is goes the travels in time. he goes to the planet health amador and it goes on these, you know, true flights of fiction
that that probably are not real. in fact, my book is very much about how it's about trauma and how kurt vonnegut was trying to show that this character billy pilgrim was deeply affected by these experiences during the war and then he goes two other places because you can't deal with the reality of it. and so that's a little you know baseline of what we're talking about. i'm gonna just briefly, you know, talk about matt and suzanne and the reason why i came up with the idea of full meta jacket is because these guys and i think it's just so perfect. that suzanne who was a student of kurt vonneguts and is a long time teacher of fiction. and an author herself a note or new kurd vonnegut and so she knows the real thing that i was writing about in my book.
and here we have matt molina who's a character in my book because i let me tell you how i met these guys. okay, matt molina. um, i was told of him through another veteran writer and this guy said, you know, you might want to talk to matt molina about caravanagan and then he reached out to melina. and said vonnegut is god. and so i was like, okay. this guy is the guy i want to speak to because i think you know not only is expressing fandom. he's getting the irony because you know vonnegut was the greatest one of the best known humans the atheists right? so i thought i got taught to him and it turned out to be my my hopes were realized i've had a wonderful time getting to know matt and i want to get into with him because he's a character in my book. and so i want to get meta about that and also so when we talk about meta we're talking about techniques the way people try to
get to truths right and vonnegut did that in slaughterhouse-five, but what i find interesting and i'm gonna get really mad at here, is is that when i approach slaughterhouse-five it's in one way suzanne mcconnell she wrote this book pity the reader that came out a couple years ago. it's co-authored with kurd vonnegut, but i i like to get into a little bit with you, but she really wrote it but she took his writing and then it's considered to be co-authored. but it's it's suzanne mcconnell, you know, basically bringing kurt's words into onto the page all his lessons about how to write now suzanne approached the subject many of the subjects that i approached and so we had different approaches and i want to get into that too. so what we're gonna do is we're going to get into one sequence from working. i just realized these
fingernails are i just cracking right? there's so i was gonna text you there so distracted and like, oh, they're gorgeous. you need to know that my kid is a softball player and we had the playoffs last weekend and they're the cookie monsters and so we all makes them there. okay, so he's part in this so this gets distracting. okay, sorry. all right, let's get back to let's get to the test. oh and speaking of colors. actually, i'm gonna i'm gonna tell you about some other colors. well, this is my book library. this is suzanne's book. okay, you'll notice we both went orange right? i think book designers. they like orange and also it happens that kurt vonnegut's breakfast a champions. was this bright beautiful orange. i think they probably saw that and they jumped on it. it's just it's you know, no one planned that but i think it's a oh you then there's that i oh
that was the blue and the ivory with the whole now, that's all about the same time. yeah. i have like oh, i like that. thank you very much. i appreciate that. okay, that's like an original is that an original edition? yeah. oh my god. okay. i've got i've got mine. nothing's original nothing. yeah. okay. so thanks for that and all right. so the sequence i want to start with guys. is the reverse film sequence a lot of people know this so we've got this character billy pilgrim who was he's practically catatonic. he's floating through life after his experiences during the war. he's having crying jags and if the story was told sequentially in a linear form, it would be the most depressing book in the world. but vonnegut uses irony and this crazy unstuck in time technique where he jumps forwards and backwards and all around and it
doesn't really feel i mean, i think a lot of people read this book and they don't feel depressed by it because it's delightful but you know, but but honestly, i mean billy's is in bad shape. so at one point during his daughter's wedding billy knows because you can see in the future in the past and everywhere around. he knows he's about to be picked up by the travel amadorians to go to charles almador. and he grabs a bottle of champagne is downstairs and he watches a movie on tv. and he starts to see the movie backwards and it's just i think i mean any any of you who know the book. i'm sure you know the scene i'm talking about because so elemental, but it the the scene a bit. what happens is that retelling of dresden. and you see the fires? disappearing you see the bombs lifting up and going back into the bays of the airplanes.
you see the airplanes going back to the airfields. you see the pilots going back to being children. so there's this, you know, if this you see the women undoing the and the factories i'm doing the war material. i'm doing the bombs. i mean, you know kurt said he didn't want to make a you know, like a moralistic peace-loving novel, but it's he found his way around depicting it in that way and it's something that we it's this cry, you know, like can we stop war? can we go back? can we turn the clock back? and it's a fantastic fantastic sequence. and so when i write about it, i write about it in context of ptsd because that's what my book is about. it's about how i believe that kurt vonnegut experienced trauma during world war two and it took him 23 years to work through that to get to this novel. and and i look at the novel in the context of war trauma. that's been that that's occurred
since the beginning of you know, beginning of times the beginning since their rewards. and then suzanne does something very different. so i'm going to read my little bit and then i'm gonna read suzanne's. so yeah, so ptsd can be construed as an invention. according to the mcgill university's allen young a medical anthropologist. this is not to say that it isn't real but as quoted in david morris's evil hours the distort the disorder is not timeless nor does it possess an intrinsic unity? rather it is glued together by the practices technologies and narratives with which it is diagnosed studied treated and represented and by the various interests institutions and moral arguments the mobilize these efforts and resources. for example morris pinpoints the development of the flashback
symptom the telltale sign of ptsd. i think a lot of his know of this that sense that a soldier who is walking through the grocery aisles and here's a loud sound and then is immediately given a flashback to when he or she was in war. so morris finds the roots in the dawn of the moving image early 20th century filmmakers coined the term flashback to refer to a jump backwards within a movie. and according to king's college researchers flashbacks were nearly non-existent among soldiers who fought before the age of film. morris notes that civil war veterans tended to describe their involuntary episodes of mental images of seeing things as fantasmic visitations. these were the days when people attempted to speak to the dead through seances. we don't live in that time anymore, right? um quote it is tempting to
wonder if film television and increasingly video games don't provide the lions share of our modern traumatic vocabulary morris writes teaching us how to see our memories in the way that photography taught us how to see and unseen sunsets. so vonnegut poked at the deep connection between cinema trauma and memory in slaughterhouse-five on the night. that pilgrim is abducted by the chaloth amadorians. so i go into that. i describe the plans going backwards and all that. um, and then i get to where i i want to lock talk about the response or have people read it. it is widely, but it is a widely beloved moment in the book. i was most moved by the story that fred graybar a former marine and chicago suburban native. who fought in vietnam in 1968 told me? i met greybar in indianapolis 50 years to the day that he flew out of dunnett. after serving an award that he
knew then quote the guys we were fighting were more in the right than we were. m quote with tears in his eyes gray bar recalled father having warned him. before you enlisted that quote in six months, you're going to be sitting in a swamp with a gun in your hand and not wanting to be anywhere near there graybar said he was off by four months. last graph on this after graybar came home from vietnam. he was deeply confused by what he had just experienced. he appreciated how his parents pushed him to put the war behind him by going back to college while he worked a night shift as a machinist. he was assigned to read slaughterhouse-five for a class one night juan break at work. he took the novel and read in a bathroom stall an image that i personally just like. he was reading the book. he read the scene of billy pilgrim's war movie being reversed and by extension graybar imagined everything. he had just experienced in vietnam also being a race.
so deep so then and then grave our wept and unstoppable streams of tears there on the john. so talking about a sequence inside our five i made a choice to put it in the context of ptsd and how fred red but check out the the totally different take that suzanne had and i i love it. i had the best one of my favorite things that happened over the summer was i reached out to suzanne and i asked her to read my book. and while she was reading her book my book. i read her book because i had i had her book came out while i was working on mine and i didn't want to mess with my head, but i was done so i thought i'd read it and i had this amazing summer or like a few weeks where i was reading it and imagining. what is she thinking? well, she's reading mind and then i was thinking oh man. how did she get that and and i was admiring her a buck and hoping that she was admiring mine. um, but also noticing some of
the differences and and thinking a lot of the thoughts that were talking about tonight. so this is what i'm suzanne says about this scene which i adore it's a it's a chapter called propagation. this is suzanne. there's no explaining the imaginative leap that spawned that marvelous scene. scene of the reverse so however films were rewound in the good old celluloid days. you could turn the light off off your 8 millimeter home movie projector so you didn't have to see or you could just watch it real backward. it was amusing to do that. fellow employees and friends of honor gets a ge where it used to work. guys in their late 20s used to have stagnites watching blue movies and they deliberately rewind the movies to film them backward. quote such fun watching the bellboy getting dressed and backing out of the room carrying a tray and quote.
the uneth thing i'm gonna that censor that the unapping unapping to must have been entertaining. this experience may have embedded itself more deeply in kurt's memory than your everyday rewound home movie and triggered this transfer central and triggered this transformative use of it. i just love the fact that she could go there and then i just would i just imagined kurt vonnegut watching a blue movie. please go backwards and it was like yes, of course. and i'm not diminishing my take on it. okay. i think i have a reason to do what i did, but i just adored how where she went with it and it just shows that you can talk about the same thing, but you just say totally different things. um, so we're gonna go to to these guys now and i guess you know basically suzanne you heard my take on this. what's your take on that sequence and maybe how we differ on it or you know our different approaches to it? we have very different purposes.
i was in the chapter that you read it's called propagation and it's about where you get your ideas. and i talk about where kurt got the word caress which everyone misuses according to his original definition, but etc, etc in that chapter. so this is it's about writing it's not about it's not about content. it's about where it might have gotten this idea. i mean when i was a kid, we watched her movies and we loved to watch everything backwards. it was really to watch everybody. going backwards because that's how you read you either turn the light off or you watched it backwards. so i think i think our purposes are completely different. i'm not talking about anything to do with what you're talking about. i'm talking about how to create how to find ideas. but in terms of your idea i have a couple of issues one. is that photography didn't start framing sunsets painters did painters would painting sunsets
forever. and the other i i was i i couldn't i i couldn't. i didn't i didn't understand. i i don't understand. i feel like the word flashback. whatever you call it. you can call it seances. you can call it visitations. it's still the same thing. i think it's just a matter of terms. i i can't believe. that people forever haven't been having. what you might call flashbacks or i mean i have flashbacks. i mean doesn't everyone. i mean if you have had an impact in your life on some after 9/11. i kept having that flashbacks, but i kept seeing the building slipping down because i saw it slipped down so i can't i don't know. it seems like a so i have a little argument with that. well, i what i think what i'm i
mean i was referring to david morris there what he said in his book, which is a great book about ptsd his own and what he's observed. and you talk about you have flashbacks. we all have flashbacks, but the point of morris is making is that in the 19th century. they didn't think of it as flashbacks. they thought it was visitations from other spirit world spirit one great wrote about it too sophocles wrote it with ajax. he had ptsd. it's like exactly as that. yeah, and he had flesh was saying that the term it doesn't matter what the term is you can call it. whatever you want. it's the experience. i mean, i i suppose i mean the point you're making is the term does matter and it does it does matter but in another way experientially, i don't know if it matters. i don't know. well, i mean, that's it. what for me one of the things i do in my book is i trace the definition and redefinition the constant revision of war trauma and how it used to be cannonball
wind syndrome when they talked about cannonballs would fly over the heads of french soldiers, and that's what they called it because they didn't you know that that was the name they used for it and and george carlin have a bit about this ptsd. what was it, you know? it's something that it always changes name, but it was the same. yeah, same it's it's a shell shockers. this world war one. it was shell shocked up shell shocked about fatigue. and then ptsd is it coined in 1980? and so yeah, i mean when i talk about kurt vonnegut identifying it and and using it in his book as far as five. he didn't come up with it for the first time but the way he describes it so perfectly anticipates the diagnosis that came out in the dsm in 1980 that i just i was floored by that but it's because i think he had his you know his nose to the ground or whatever, you know his ear in the ground. he he had a sense of where the society was changing and he
understood how how people relate to memory and you think he was riding out of his own experience and that was his experience. yeah. that's what i think i mean, he didn't he didn't use the term ptsd. he just showed it. yeah. um, matt you you know, you know this scene. i'm sure i think you reread the book. i thought i was five at yeah, really like in like a 12-hour period kind of coming off of it right now. so i like stopped got food and then came to this after reading i thought mine as well. so yeah, we read it and and what what impression did this sequence have for you or you know, you can go on a riff on anything about what was no maybe the book now. it's it's odds reread after reading your take on it, especially if it's discussing with you for so much because i had it yet. i read it before we talked i read it real quick. read it too many times in my life at this point. um, and the sequences it's it
describes what it i feel like it ends on such a heartbreaking point that it was their business the minerals were then shipped to specialist and removed areas. it was their business to put them into the ground to hide them cleverly so they would never hurt anyone anybody ever again. and it's like it's very you can hear him like breaking as he wrote it at least in my in my head he had to. push them all the way back into the earth back into the ground. so to erase the memory of what war is clearly it doesn't you know, we i he suffered clearly. i've suffered mac out. like there's people in here that we've discussed that i have suffered through. ptsd or whatever you call it. i don't mean you discuss this. i necessarily don't think it's ptsd. i think more there's more shot coming home from before soldier
than actually going to war we're trained or we're not trained to come back and he wrote. i think it was the i said earlier the one where it really gets meta where he's in the billy pilgrims in the hospital. and he writes. they'd come here voluntarily. he's talking about that. he was in the the hospital. he they came had coming up voluntarily alarmed by the outside world. that's veterans hospital and that's like searingly what i feel like he's the novel about i you know. yeah, but yeah i could roof. so yeah, so i suzanne what what is the function of the meta technique or the approach that vonnegut uses in solder house 5, what would you say is the purpose of it? what does it do for the reader? i i think um, as i said to you earlier, i mean at the time he was writing it.
there was no term meta fiction. they were they were creating it so he that was for him. i think it was part of his big breakthrough to to it to tell i i think that in his deepest heart of hearts. he's so much wanted to tell this story. he really wanted you to get it and and to do that needed to tell. he needed to tell that first chapter that he was there and then as you i think you pointed out several times in the novel. he says that because i just reread it to. he says that was me. i was there once when the person sees dresden and it says, it's oz that was me. he says and once when somebody's -- their brains out and then he says, whoops there they go. that was me. he said so a couple of times he comes in and out and i i think it just lends.
it lends so much weight doesn't it if he didn't have that chapter if it was just fiction, but also in in my book i talk about how i have a chapter called breakthrough. about how all these forces came together to create his breakthrough. and and that was one and partly the there was something happening in the air at the time. he was riding it fictionally speaking. there was the new journalism. where all of a sudden it was a big breakthrough to to not pretend that you're objective, you know god. yeah guns of journalism. yeah, so and that was a big that was a big thing. also. he had written the preface. to mother night that mother night did not always have a preface right when it first came out and so he had done that at iowa.
so something was going on with him like wanting so much because i think those two books really are about the war and ptsd together those two are you know if you read them together? to cover the territory. you can really see how he was working it out with that preface in mother night because it's all about him and his experiences at dresden but almost has no connection to the book so you could just see he was working on it. that's them. you're right. he just kind of slaps it on it in a way. it's incongruous. whereas inside our s5 it's very well integrated. you're absolutely right. 100 shows the evolution of that that creative process. yeah and of his dealing with it. it was dealing with pts is dealing with the ward trauma. yeah. and all right, so i want to jump. focus on on something that for you for you matt for writing
about you as a film subject and a character in my book i want to again get meta about it. i want to talk about our process. because i'm always interested in process and i describe your experiences in iraq. and and i experience i described my experience with you talking about it. now there's one thing i'm gonna i'm just gonna surprise you with something that i actually didn't put in the book i cut this out, but it would what it where i had it was right before i described one of the worst firefights that you are in and so i'm going to read it to you a little bit. it's short this is just before i describe the more scene. before i go further, i'll mention here that i reported and wrote what follows with the same voyeuristic fervor that i pursued the kurt vonnegut nazi slayer story just a little
context here people. i identified that i earlier on in the book that i came upon what could have been a war crime that kurt vonnegut had committed. i just you know, i i dispel that notion but hundred percent. i think you did it. yeah, he didn't do it in my head. i'm like, i want him. it's the same discussion. i want him to but in the same end it makes no sense that he would read the book. you'll find out more and but the point of bringing up at that whole story is that i want people to think about war stories and what attracts us to them and what makes the best ones work. okay, so back back to this. sure, i could rationalize this section by hoping it reveals more about the connection between slaughterhouse-five and soldier and i'm just gonna be honest here. that's what kurt that's what that's what matt molina is to me. he's like an embodiment of kurt vonnegut as a veteran who is a thoughtful person who is a writer who's struggling with his
own experiences. i mean, that's what he is to me. um, you're more than that. but i'm going to go on and but i was also thrilled when i heard it. by the details themselves and by the act of telling it to you. now what matt said to me was that despite his allegiance to the author in war he was no one again. well in writing about war i'm nobody get either. in other words, i i in my book i i have i have to be honest. i have fun writing about war because i got to write about you know, matt molina with this big gun called a son. it did excite me to some you know, and and i have qualms about that. and so i want to to bring this to you matt. and and ask you, you know, you're you saw your experiences?
put out on a page by someone else may and your character in my book? what does that feel like? it's it's on it's really it's really -- up. it's really effing on. because you got everything right, but then you it's a weird. story you told on how you told my story. it's like an echo of what i told you like a very very close echo, but it's an echo like in my head. the you describe the firefight and the alleyway, but in my head i know exactly what alleyway looked like. and it i know the connotation of an alleyway may or may or not of changed how you viewed it, but my eyes it was what it's a little but what i viewed. what you're coming to mind is not what i saw when you say alleyway, it sounds like you're
talking about three dimension. i'm talking in two dimensions exactly, you know, and and i and i found that very interesting once i got my hands on the copy of it and because our experience was very eye opening for me like i i tend to come down on myself very often and i i do nothing. but like i realized they have to talk in you i've been writing for decade now. just no one tends to see it anymore. i don't necessarily give a -- if anyone sees it. i'm not the point where possibly i'll win a big award after i die because someone will find everything and go through an event because i can't and it's it was an odd experience knowing like coming to realization is as writers. we all struggle. i'm sure you have we've discussed the time and suzanne. i'm sure you've struggled and how to properly get an idea. out there and your idea me hit home. and it was it was odd, you know, it was exciting. you know, i've been i've written
i've been published i've been written about but not so you know who are my home hanging out so it was different it was um suzanne if i could ask you what does kurt vonnegut teach us about the key often would use real people in either as fiction or in as you would write about the nonfiction. what does he tell us you know that about are the responsibilities where are the guard wheels on when we write about? real people or and what are the assets i guess of it. what what's the reason to do it? um, that's a that's a tough one. you can pass any my questions. you guys are welcome to have. okay. i don't i don't i don't think of him as i mean, i don't think of him as particularly using real people in a i mean, he uses them as models, but he doesn't which all fiction writers do you know,
but i don't think he uses real people very often. sometimes he uses. names or he uses names of real people in his fiction. i mean he used names from people at the workshop in his fiction. he uses his good friend. jose. dinozo is in a galapagos and etc. etc. but i don't have a real sense of that. well, i mean you look at i was five. i mean billy pilgrim is based on joe crone an actual soldier who wasted away and and died. yeah, and then edgar derby is based on. yeah those everybody yeah got real american soldier who was was killed and he uses those characters and you're like you're saying as inspirations one of the fascinating stories that i came upon. i didn't know before was that he never told people about joe chrome the fact that that billy public was based on this character for 40 years. he didn't he wait until the
1990s to tell people he started to tell them which shows his ability to keep a secret. i'll just see where i found that because i found that in his writing somewhere, but i don't have the reference right now in my head of when he when he said that but i want to do it was in one of the droughts of sawdust slide, but he never no but it's in it. it's in it's it's not just there. it's in a nonfiction book because i have it somewhere not before 1990. yeah. oh, maybe not. i don't know. i'm not i'm not arguing that at all. no. yeah, no, i i want to make a comment about that because fiction is so tricky because one of us just said this i don't know who was. vonnegut butter love mixing him up with billy pilgrim so he's close to billy pilgrim, but he's not billy pilgrim. you know, monica was not like passive kind of guy as you as
you extrapolate and and and speculate. you know, he he had a temper. he could be angry. he he was he was not billy pilgrim part him and aspect. but that's not vonnegut. it's not joe crone either. it's a it's an imagined character based on someone that's what fiction does. i looked at billy pilgrim as his ptsd. vonnegan's ptsd rearing its own head. i don't look at as a character. it's it's more of just a feeling he's not he's not a character billy. he's not against that he's not a three-dimensional character at all because it doesn't make three-dimensional characters very often. that's not what he's trying to do. the mat you read the sawgrassi before you were deployed, right? yeah, and then you read it after soon after right? yes soon soon after i was like in iraq i read. way more than i should have had
time to do but i was like i was stuck in that weird ready east and ellis like chuck palahnik masculinity, and then i kind of got back into my roots and and found vonnegut and don delillo when i got out again. um, yeah. no i had i've read it. it it's changes meaning every time i read in a and i do pull out more things out of it and i realize i realized more about the characters and and him himself and i realized like he goes met a lot more than you know even even when he's saying pilgrim he's talking about himself. there was i think the one i sent you earlier the example was. he was talking about billy and rose water in the hospital and he goes so they were trying to reinvent themselves in their universe science fiction was a big help. like oh that's -- vinegar. that's not you know, billy program. that's fine. again speaking. so it's been it's been an
eye-opening read it over again. tom and i have the question here. so i feel like you're almost touching on something. i really really want to know and don't understand and both of the people in your book what who's the vet? give a long passage about him molina, but no no and last meet you. yeah. i i have so much trouble understanding why somebody would read? slaughterhouse-five, which is so anti-war and then go to war. i i just don't i just don't get it and and it fits in with what you you were talking about. tim o'brien i was at an incredible conference out of that lip med thing. oh my god, i just forgot the name of it. it was the most powerful weekend i've ever spent with all kinds of vets and tim was there and he was listening listening listening to all these health
care and i couldn't wait to hear what he's going to say and what he said was what you say in your book, which is you know, yeah, it's nice to have health care and help people put themselves back together, but war itself is a health issue like don't go to war so i i i'm what what why? yeah, i mean, i think it's interesting one of the things back on. so surprising about sarah's five is most people are talked to who read it. in high school they just thought it was a fun rom. they didn't see it as just well don't you know don't go to war even though current i was one of i was one of them suzanne, even though he says it. yeah. tell my son's not to go to work. you just really you just a lot of sinatra in john wayne movies before like that. yeah, okay. it was the romanticism of it
that i yeah, and i have to i want to say something about this too because once i was with kurt and i said, i mean i was naive. girl, and i said something about you know, how difficult it must have been a war memorial, you know, and he said oh no. oh, no carrying a rifle through villages. it made you feel really powerful. he just he just did it. his this the same thing in life that he does in his books, which is cut through whatever little whatever little box. you wanted to put him in plus romanticizing war. he just he did that switch and bait thing. you know that. and i was very taken aback and i really got it though. yeah, and i think that was something that i found in my research that. he talked about the war fondly
when he talked, you know as experiences in terms of well, it was one hell of a thing to go through but he would never have done that he would never would have represented war that way because he wanted to show he didn't want people to go to war and that's what slaughterhouse-five it's like and that that's the debate that i get into between carmelentas the writer of matterhorn and tim o'brien tim o'brien says you can never find anything redeeming about war don't ever try to make it seem. okay? karma, let it says. hey, i enjoyed my band of brothers and i was the the thrill of fighting a war was like the thrill of getting a touchdown in a football game. and i and and there's a tension there that i think vonnegut was able to avoid he just went wacko with these aliens and and humor and so he was able to subvert the the traditional warner narrative by making funny and
dark. but never feel good. yeah, but i want to back up for a minute because i don't think i don't think kurt was in the war long enough to enjoy it at all. he was arrested after a month because the battle of the bold it was horrible. i don't think he i think he had a really unusually bad. works we did have it he did have. it's friendship with his buddy o'hare though. i mean that that was a real. we talked about it publicly was usually he always said i was not commented by war. in fact, it was kind of like a thrill, but i don't believe him at all. yeah. i know that, you know neither his kids his kids say that he was traumatized. yeah, and i was thinking of you today. it was curious you knew him personally and and maybe it's too big of a hypothetical. do you think this novel would have been possible if he actually saw or participate in combat? he actually did the soldiering stuff which he never got to do
with this before. he did it for a month. yeah. i don't i have no idea. i mean, of course you would have if he hadn't had his particularly very bad and not not just a bad word experience. it's that's even too simple. it's way too simple if you read his letter home. i just did this because it just gave a dress that i went through the letter. as a prisoner of war first they were bombed on their on their transport train by the royal air force then when they get to the showers and they're deloused. a bunch of people die again the russians bomb them again, and he's taken prisoner of war in germany. and then the americans bombing. that's his war experience. there's that's what that's what it comes out. it's like there's no gray area. there's no good guys. no bad guys. it's that's the point of it. not not so much about war is like none of it makes any sense.
so it's a big overall, you know. excuse me for spelling of now. i want i want to go actually i want to get behind the motivation by your question map, but i want to give other people the opportunity to ask questions. i'm not sure i can't tell i realize what time it was this one fast. well, yes, so, um, i don't know are there event vinny? are you there? can you are there questions to be asked or should i just tell people please ask questions and i am here you are no questions. so let's get some questions. i have a couple but we'll wait to see if people have others please ask some questions about either you either to these guys are to me whatever, you know, whatever you want and i'll ask the questions always in my mind. i ended up not really writing about covid because it was i was pretty deep into the book. my book is about trauma and sarah has 5 and sarah. i was like kind of aware of the context that we were living in that everyone's being traumatized by this pandemic.
what do you guys think kurt vonnegut? tells us about you know. how to handle this current, you know pandemic that we're in or you know trump either one just like let's talk about florida's five and curve on again in this day and age, which i think we should all be doing. i think everyone if we achieve anything tonight, i hope it's that you're gonna go out and buy slaughterhouse-five if you don't already have if you do two things, it's get that book and also get my book or three things and also gets suzanne's book. okay, that's okay. that's three things i ask of you but i'm you get you guys. is there anything you could say about? how does bonnie get applied to either trump or covid? well, how can you feel that? alex resent and took this to you asking us. yeah.
he would have any reason that already he yeah died trump. you know, he's he's he would have he would have got would have just broken his heart. really. i mean, you know, he already this quotes about bush what we hear is a very funny thing about he didn't believe he would live to see bush cheney and no to see bush colon. what what am i missing? setting -- bush -- and cullen, you know right in the country. yeah running the country. so that's a great show, but trump was no joke. and and i think i think the authoritarianism the black white thing which is so opposite his his view the nationalism. i think it was broken his heart and he would have he would be he would have lived longer in order to write more about it if he could have.
you know, just one of the one of the things that really nagged in me as i was working on this book. was the notion that kurt? was such a downer in his last year's and it's something that i wrestled with because his kids often would tell me. no, he don't think of him. just that way because he had so much joy all so and i mean a lot of it comes from the main biography of carvanaga is and so it goes and in that book he's depicted as being pretty unhappy in his last few years and suzanne. i'm curious what your take is on that is is that just the truth of it or or is there more of a nuance to it? i think he i think he was pretty unhappy. he didn't like getting old. he really didn't like getting old. and he didn't have a good marriage. his second marriage was not.
it started out with a the kaboom but it didn't didn't go well, so he was unhappy that way. you know, he i think he felt like he'd done his best work much earlier in his life. um but to his incredible credit, i mean the last time i saw him i had lunch with him about six months before he died and he gave me a packet of poems and i'm on the bus on the way home i burst out laughing. i hear this poem called patience and it's it's really a just a prose thing about a student asking him kind of shame-facedly that she hadn't experienced death yet. what was she going to write about it? and he puts his hand on her shoulder. he says patience. wow, wow, he says it better than i'm saying it. but oh, that's great, you know, so he i think he was i think he
was sad and and the war lay on more like way on a more as he got older. do you believe did you guys ever discuss the war to an extent? no, i told you the anecdote, but no not. not directly in class he did and and i talk about that. we all knew what he was writing and you always felt this sense of he was incredible in class. he was just a wonderful teacher and he says that that was his best time teaching. and i think he was i think that going to i well you said you talk about this tom in your book. i was fascinated by this about the difference of soldiers in world war two and talking about things you quote feel clay a lot. i saw him. read once at nyu and and i have i cut out a couple of articles
by him. he's very down to earth and doesn't have this romantic thing of them not talking. i mean the sharing of those things that you point out in your book. it seems like i'm very different experience than then having this. don't talk about it or can't talk about it. how can i don't know. it's so complicated and you you point out some of that complication of talking about it and not talking. let's talk to this guy about it. i mean matt you are at this generation at your you know fills as a guy, you know, yeah and one you're in their same writing workshop right together. yeah, we both tended nyu. um, i think i was there for about three years. we did a big event kind of dc at the kenny. kennedy center, it was a weird time. be right so speak. let's talk about your your generation in terms of being
more open about the trauma that that you know soldiers today experience so it's an odd thing a there's not a lot of and i'll i don't know because my circle was so small and at nyu every single one of those guys were officers. yeah. oh them. i was the only charge i was the only been listed so there there's not doesn't seem like volantis officer gallagher officer vonnegut project private and me as well. like i came up through the ranks that way and it was just very interesting to see the interaction between the two because you read phil's and mats and they're way polished, but then you read my so my stuff are even vonnegut's it's polished, but it's it's not it's it's got this little wildness too that i don't see in in others writing
now. i guess vietnam change things people. we'll talk about war more openly now and and through the years of pc generation or our generate my generation, i guess. you know everything needs to be talked about and it it's out in the open and part of therapy now is the arts writing about this stuff. so we have a of that people talk. war can be spoken about i find people more interested in the experience and over the years now than it was even when we first came up about a decade ago when we were running nyu it wasn't it was very fresh. these events didn't garner such. it came it came and drives as soon as the guy they started right gal talking gallagher and phil the i'm rambling on
polished. well, you know, they're not reminds me of what i think a story by phil about the soldier who needs to kill the dog. is that am i is that i mean, this is a soldier is that this is a fictional short story. clearly there's a soldier here who is traumatized. and i'm not going to say that these are the first is the first generation to write about it. i mean you look at a perfect day for banana fished, you know, jd salinger. yeah, that's explicitly about a soldier from world war two who's traumatized and then he kills himself. so it they're always been generations writing about it. and i i think it's it's a really interesting subject to look at culture. it's there was a cultural shift in the last 10 years 12 years 50 and it's not just warts sexual soldiers. not just everything that's been fighting talked about, you know, and there's trauma everywhere and people are realizing hey world's -- up. everyone gets screwed over and i
have i'm alone here, but i have someone else that can talk to and that's where i think you also have communication now the three of us are sitting in a room like this is everything show out in the open and it's changed the world to you. sorry matt. there's there's one question. i want to get to it before we close. this is this is from melissa zenken. thank you melissa. i think that people who have not been in a war will restart house five differently from people who have been in a war. which person do you think was vaughn against intended audience? i did audience. i would think this is for someone that's not been a war. it's for everybody, but it's he's not talking to a grizzled soldier here. i think he's talking about people that may have think about going to war i've got to talk about this and then and i mean i think it's so interested about talking about bonnie gets
intended audience vonnegut was so aware of his audience. had he his whole career was writing short stories to try to appeal to for magazine audiences. he always talked about you've got to make your work entertaining. he was not just writing for himself. yeah. and and and i i do think you might be right matt because i'm thinking about most of the guys in his unit who are prisoners of war with him. they read his book and they're like, this is what you wrote. what what is this thing? they were looking forward to like more straightforward. just you know, a nonfictional or just like a memoir of their experiences, they were thrown by it. but suzanne what your take on this anything and i can't remember. i was yeah, i'm here to go. it was back to it was it was another was another question. i think you're right that he was right. i think matt's exactly right. he was writing it not to people in war but to it was a warning
it was a warning but matt i was intrigued by i'm intrigued not just in this conversation, but about whether talking where the limits of talking is like you can i remember i think in your book tom you quote tim o'brien as saying how he doesn't talk about it didn't talk about to his kids. i mean, it's hard to talk to little kids but if you talk about it, you can be flippant. whereas if you're writing about it, you can't you know, you can say this is my war story. i remember reading a book about writing by a poet and she was talking she was teaching a class to bets and they were talking lower back and forth about their war stories and then she said to one slow down. slow waiting tell me that story very slowly. tears trauma because you can
tell your story right people tell their horrifying stories all the time at dinner parties. yeah, i i have no issue talking about at this point in my life. it's it's kind of it was done and i and i forced myself in the writing. but like finally even says he's the nicest veterans in schenectady thought the kindness and funniest ones the ones who hated war the most were the ones who'd really fought. and i feel like the he openly wrote about what happened because he went through it and he does i think talk about the experience somewhat flippantly at times that yes, absolutely and i'm not sure where that came from in his eyes. but in my eyes, it's the same as laughing at a funeral. it's yeah, it's the same we're so we don't know. how to write this down and i think when i was younger i was i wrote about writing a lot in my
favorite books and i had written something about vonnegan. i wrote like the guy had a weight at this that time. i thought he waited a decade and i didn't know he waited 24 years you waited, but that's struggling. that's how i finally. he took this long he had to throw he had to throw aliens in it to actually make a point like again if the aliens weren't there. this would be really freaking depressing to read. it's 26 pages of aliens in trout by the way, but i want to say it's taking me longer than that to write my novel. i was thinking about traumas people take a long time to write their traumas, whatever those traumas are and matt still working on his there's we got one more question. i think mad if you're getting answered it make this a short answer and then we're gonna wrap up. i can make this really short. it's about let me read it out. with slaughterhouse-five passed around at all when you served was it a book a lot of guys
read? i was the only reader that i knew of in my squad and i i used to get bookshipped from amazon big boxes in the used to throw an extra books because i realized they realized they were sending to an ao and address for war. i was the only reader no one i knew reddit now. i know of older veterans a couple of vietnam guys. i'm uncle praise and then a couple desert storm guys, they read it and it went around their unit. especially in vietnam not vietnam. it was a poet is like iran contra war. but not my unit. yeah now we're much readers. so you're watching cook on dvd, you know, really good -- dvd players. it's a different. um, do you either of you any final words you have anything the last news you want to say this and want to get off your chest? that was great. there's a pleasure me just i was very nervous about meeting users and you're definitely yeah horse to be reckoned with just folks
you know, yeah. well, i i thank you all so much. oh we got vinny. so can i thank you know just coming back. yeah, go ahead. so, thank you again. thank you guys, matt suzanne. thank you so much for doing this with me. i really appreciate it. please read get get pity the reader suzanne's book. i would love it if you got my book the writers crusade kurt vonnegut and the many lives of slaughterhouse-five and i look forward to everyone getting matt's book when it comes and it will come. and yeah, so thank you so much. thank you vinnie. you take it away. thanks. everyone thanks for supporting you local independent bookstores. we appreciate it. and as tom said by the writers crusade or any other books that were discussed here tonight. i will read slaughterhouse because i i don't even remember if i finish it, but now i go back. and read it because it was really fascinating. thank you so much.