Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut [Book Thoughts]

Cat’s Cradle is a strange little book that has the power to both amuse and depress. But it’s fascinating and possibly brilliant. Worth reading even if you aren’t a Bokononist.


Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was a notorious writer of forma (harmless untruths). He wrote a lot of things that aren’t true, including this book and Slaughterhouse-Five. He also fought in a war. That part was true. Or was it? Um. Also Vonnegut may or may not have been a Bokononist. We’ll never know. But we do know that he wrote Cat’s Cradle, one of his most famous works. See the cat? See the cradle? Of course you don’t.

Meet Jonah, the narrator. He’s a Bokononist, before that he used to be a Christian. Bokononists follow the Book of Bokonon. One of the man untruths in the Book(s) of Bokonon is that God organises people into teams called a karass. Members of a karass are directed by God to achieve some kind of goal. As Jonah tells us, before he became a Bokononist he was on a mission to write a book called The Day the World Ended, which was to chronicle Felix Hoenikker, the man who designed the atomic bomb. Felix was a strange man, as we come to know, and he had three strange children (including a control freak, a delinquent and a midget) and one of the strangest things he did was create Ice-Nine. Ice-Nine is probably the wampeter of Jonah’s karass. It could destroy the world. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you should probably read the book. It’s an interesting book.

So what’s up with this book? A religion called Bokononism, an island called San Lorenzo and plenty of granfalloons. It’s been described before as an annoying book. Is it? Well it got Vonnegut an honorary degree in anthropology so I guess it must have annoyed a lot of people. There’s plenty of commentary on religion, war, human stupidity and Goddamn it this Vonnegut guy is pretty good. The book is a joke; you can’t take it too seriously without feeling depressed but it will make you laugh. And it’s worth taking seriously because the depths of the insights will strike you. This Vonnegut guy knows a thing or two.

The book is one of Vonnegut’s earlier works. It’s short and written in an experimental style that Vonnegut would draw on heavily for his later works; it’s very enjoyable, very distinct. But it’s one of Vonnegut’s finest. It’s also a poignant powerful exposition in human stupidity that covers a lot of ground while staying deceptively light-hearted on the subject. You have to be more than a little clever to get it though. As an introduction to Vonnegut however, it’s great stuff. Go get it, go read it. You’re going to have to learn some new words but it might just inspire a vin-dit.

Cat’s Cradle is a strange little book that has the power to both amuse and depress. But it’s fascinating and possibly brilliant. Worth reading even if you aren’t a Bokononist.

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