There isn’t any particular relationship between the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.

In this passage at the beginning of Chapter 5, one of Billy’s captors explains the Tralfamadorian novel to him. It seems that Vonnegut has taken this template as a model for Slaughterhouse-Five, down to the rows of asterisks or dots separating short clumps of text. The irony of such a strategy is that Vonnegut, like Billy, lacks the Tralfamadorian ability to pick and choose his moments. Vonnegut thus considers his book a failure of sorts, because he has achieved the Tralfamadorian structure without its accompanying depth and beauty, and because he has come up with nothing more intelligent or deep to say about a massacre than “Poo-tee-weet.” Most readers would argue, however, that Vonnegut has actually succeeded in making a thing of great beauty out of a collection of tragic moments.