Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cat's Cradle (thoughts)

Since Kurt Vonnegut died, I felt that reading one of his books was the least I could do. So, last Friday I checked out Cat's Cradle. I ended up reading it that afternoon/night, it was so engrossing.

For some reason, I had stayed away from Vonnegut in the past. I tend to avoid all 'new classical American writers' (Vonnegut, Updike,Roth): they always struck me as somewhat negative or pessimistic.

Now I'm eating crow. Cat's Cradle was pretty amazing; I guess it was pessimistic (the characters pretty much end up destroying the world), but it's also amazing. The book is a first-person account of "Jonah" (his parents almost named him that) and events in his life. He's become a convert of the Bokonon religion, which is essentially determinist. So, the narrator sprinkles Bokonon words of wisdom throughout his essentially fatalistic account. Without giving much away, he ends up meeting up with the children of a scientist who worked on the atomic bomb, and eventually they all end up in the Caribbean.

The plot isn't really the point of the book, however. It's the satirically drawn characters that really make the book swing. The whole book is absurd, which is the point. I especially enjoyed the ugly American tourists. :)

I give up trying to explain it. I'm sure much more analytical types would do a better job. So, how do the rest of you feel about Vonnegut? Love him, hate him, avoid him? If you're undecided, I recommend Cat's Cradle as a good introduction; the chapters are super short, which keeps the book moving along.

Favorite Passages

She believed that God liked people in sailboats much more than He liked people in motorboats. She could not bear to look at a worm. When she saw a worm, she screamed.

She was a fool and so am I and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing. (5)

I smiled at one of the guards. He didn't smile back. There was nothing funny about national security, nothing at all. (35)

As Bokonon says, "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." (63)

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