Armageddon in Retrospect
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 6 Feb 2012
Full Title: Armageddon In Retrospect: And Other New And Unpublished Writing On War And Peace
Once again, I ventured into unfamiliar territory. Having heard so much about Kurt Vonnegut, and Slaughterhouse-Five not being available at the library (or, at least not available in audio book format, my interest of the day), I picked up Armageddon in Retrospect, a collection of Vonnegut's essays published after his passing in 2007.
"Happy Birthday, 1951" haunted me, seeing myself as the boy, fancied by the shiny bombers and awesome tanks, and not thinking of the horror and destruction they represented. In "The Commandant's Desk", the Czech carpenter's extreme disappointment with the American liberator could be felt through the pages; the twist in the final sentence was a bit unexpected for this new Vonnegut reader and left quite an impression. "Just You and Me, Sammy" read almost like a movie, in which the early parts contained an easily-missed clue and the end had a "oh... OHHH" moment, so to speak. In "Spoils", Vonnegut seemed to purposely set human deaths aside, replacing the suffering with the loss of a child's pet, which, as someone who had pets of various kinds growing up, touched me in a different way than what other anti-war authors had reached me previously. A message was in the namesake piece "Armageddon in Retrospect" in regards to the good and evil of our society, that much was clear, however to be completely honest, I had not yet absorbed it all. Many of the essays made use of actual historical events to engage us in an evaluation of the morals of our decisions, with obvious hints toward wars bringing out the worst in men, mixed in with urgings for something that resembled free thought.
Prior to this title, I had not listened to too many works of fiction in audio book format, but I must say that I had enjoyed Rip Torn's narration with Armageddon In Retrospect. During conversations, the variations in volume, pacing, and accents really set apart the various characters so that there was no question who was speaking.
Kurt Vonnegut was undoubtedly a big name in the literary world, even I knew as much, but having near zero exposure, I could really say that I went into Armageddon In Retrospect with a clean slate. Understanding of works of literature had always been far from my list of competencies, but I could still tell you that I had enjoyed this book immensely. Borrowing something my colleague Bryan Hiatt (who, incidentally, had reviewed Slaughterhouse-Five here at WW2DB) said, "I kind of loved this book".
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943