Kurt Vonnegut: Cat's Cradle

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Vonnegut, Kurt. Cat's Cradle (New York: Dell, 1998)

Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle couldn't have been a better inaugural choice for the Atheist Nexus monthly book club. His science-fiction concept of ice-nine (a configuration of water molecules that is solid at room temperature) engages the imagination, but it's the religion of Bokononism that makes this book a classic. Indeed, Vonnegut's riffs on Bokonon and his religious writings make me wonder why I took so long to finally read Cat's Cradle.

Vonnegut deftly sets up the ice-nine threat in the first 50 pages, and then gradually adds layer upon layer of intrigue to the situation until < spoiler alert > catastrophe strikes in the last 50 pages. < end spoiler > (Unfortunately, I can't excerpt the narrator's religious asides in a way that would do Vonnegut's literary craft any sort of justice.) As the narrative takes its course, Vonnegut makes observations about war, religion, and humanity's other lunacies are as trenchant as ever. Here's his take on military pomp and pageantry:

"Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns." (p. 254)

This is often a humorous book--not laugh-out-loud funny, but spiced with Vonnegutian touches: the black humor that suffuses its pages and animates its characters is his instantly recognizable style. Vonnegut skewers human pretentiousness with a caustic delight; since his passing last year, this book is a reminder of how unique his voice was.

Cat's Cradle is often mentioned as the Vonnegut novel to read after Slaughterhouse-Five; now I'm wondering which one to read next. Any suggestions?

Wikipedia article on Cat's Cradle
The Books of Bokonon

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1 Comment

If you are in need of a little mind bending, Vonnegut style, 'Mother Night' will do the trick!

It's been a long while since I read Cat's Cradle, but ice 9 is still very much in my mind.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on September 1, 2008 10:25 PM.

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