I'm about 3/4 of the way through and I don't know what the fuck this even is
It's not that bad, but Reddit seems to like it a lot, and in an effort to gain distance from Reddit, /lit/ has dug itself into the position that it's terrible. Don't put too much stock into the hate, it's basically a meme opinion.
There is a part when they were in that POW camp with the Englishmen. Said they used candles from fat from Jews. Which is a complete lie. That never happen, it was just rumors. Also he wrote that Dresden was a undefended town with no army or production of war. Which is another complete lie.
Billy Pilgrim got so fucked up from the war he cannot connect with anybody in the present and is constantly reliving the experience of the war.
It really isn't that complicated of a metaphor.
Vonnegut doesn't go into much depth with his themes. What makes him attractive is his accessible yet delicious prose and his biting wit.
Now, /lit/ will tell you Vonnegut is inferior due to the extent of which his themes run, and it's true that he does have some bad books, but he really is a great author. Slaughterhouse 5, Cat's Cradle, and The Sirens of Titan are all wonderful books that can really help you "get into" literature. If Slaughterhouse 5 doesn't do much for you, try the other two I mentioned. The Sirens of Titan is similar to Slaughterhouse 5 in the way the themes are presented, Cat's Cradle is in a different bag entirely.
how do you learn more about what is and isn't decent prose? I have a rudimentary sense of what I do and don't enjoy, but I have no way to articulate what I feel about the structure of a book. It's frustrating me.
It's a book about War. Anyone who has been to war will understand this book and if you cannot grasp I can take that as an indicator of non-veteran status. Like Heller or Heinlein there are some stories and ideas we claim as our own.
We leave the rest to the "intellectuals" lol
Prose is something you sense. If something is grating and hard to follow, it might be shitty prose. Sure, you can have concrete evidence why something is shitty prose, but most of it comes from intuition.
Complain as you like, but slaughterhouse five is in my mind a key stepping stone into lit. Its power lies in its fame and accessibility to the common man. In this way, and in its relative simplicity to more /lit/stuff, it can draw people in, and, here's the important part, start to get them used to works where they may be completely lost. It teaches beginner lessons in being able to roll with a mess of a plotline, which is a crucial skill for the transition to patrician tier books. If for no other reason, at least for that, it should stay on /lit/and the starter kit.
I loved the clever way it explored the futility and consistency of war. Pilgrims ambivalence compared to the brave or angry or cowardly other soldiers never really mattered. If you want a less philosophical war book, try a farewell to arms
If you're 3/4ths of the way through it and you can tell what it's about (HE LITERALLY TELLS YOU ON THE FIRST PAGE) then you're worse than reddit. Just go read JRR Martine or something