2013 Reads: Twenty {Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut}

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I'm still surprised how long it has taken me to read any of Kurt Vonnegut's work. But, I'm glad I waited to get my feet wet in his prose. I can totally see high-school-Courtney bored, annoyed, and confused with this novel. 


The narrator of this story is a journalist writing a book about the End of the World - or the lives of people the day the atomic bomb was dropped. However, he quickly gets caught up in the lives of the family and colleagues of the late Dr. Hoenikker - the genius behind the bomb itself.

Over the course of his research, the narrator finds himself on the island of San Lorenzo where he has been sent to work on another article. While there he runs into a number of the Hoenikker family and discovers two important things. First, that each member of the family has been given a minute piece of Ice-9, a compound capable of bringing about the destruction of Earth. Second, he discovers the religion of Bokononism - a religion founded on lies and good stories about the good of humanity and the ridiculous nature of the world - which he quickly adopts.

What ensues is a hilarious and satirical look at humanity, science, and the end of the world.


Since I'm not a Vonnegut aficionado, I'm not going to be able to offer the clever and in-depth analysis of Cat's Cradle that some might be able to give. However, I am an avid reader, and can give review of a book that I enjoyed (even if I may not have fully gotten it). I'm pretty sure this is a book that gets better every time you read it, that's for sure.

This book hits on three themes in a unique and often hysterical way: humanity, religion, and the end of the world.

First, humanity. Vonnegut is able to paint an accurate and satirical picture of human nature. People's faults and strengths are pointed out in obvious and hysterical ways. From the narrator's love affair with a woman he's only seen in a photograph to the children who are willing to sell Ice-9 just to attain small pleasures in life. Vonnegut shows us how selfish and frail our condition actually is - what we're willing to do to satisfy our own need for happiness.

Next, religion. Bokononism is an interesting religion that Vonnegut has created. Built on lies and hilarious deceit, Bokononism is based on the idea that humanity is inherently good. People are connected in many ways and are probably responsible for their own downfall. The rites and texts that Vonnegut created are marvelous.

Finally, the end of the world. I'm not going to ruin this for you, but know this: Vonnegut is a genius. The end of the world, according to him, will be brought about by our own sheer stupidity and selfishness. Poignant and foreboding, if nothing else.


Title: Cat's Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Dystopian, Apocalyptic, Sci-Fi, Classics
Medium: Paperback, 287pp
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
Date Read: 19 May 2013
Source: Purchased at Portsmouth Book & Bar
Recommended For: Vonnegut lovers, Classics enthusiasts, Enjoyers of apocalyptic tales
Challenges: Goodreads, Back to the Classics

First Line: Call me Jonah.
Favorite Line: There is enough love in this world for everybody, if people would just look.
Last Line: If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You-Know-Who. {whited out, for spoiler's sake}

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