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Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Cat's Cradle (1963)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (196)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (201)
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
I am just going to come out and say it: I am pretty sure that Kurt Vonnegut is my spirit animal. When I read his works, I feel like he is talking to a darkness that has lived inside of me that has been protected by comedic outbursts and nurtured by the sorrows of the world. Vonnegut’s books are strange, fantastical, and confronting. They make me question my values, my beliefs, and what way is really up. Cat’s Cradle is no exception. The opening lines read:

Nothing in this book is true.

‘Live by the foma* that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.’

The Book of Bokonon. 1:5

*Harmless untruths

Bokononism is a religion found on an island republic in the Caribbean, San Lorenzo. Their catchphrase is: “Busy, busy, busy,” which is used whenever there are lots of things afoot. The Bokononist life is simple and blunt.They believe:

Everything is a lie.

Nothing can be true.

Love the people around you.

Give into your karass* and the kan-kan* that takes you there.

(*”We Bokononists believe that humanity is organized into teams, teams that do God’s Will without every discovering what they are doing. Such a team is called a Karass by Bokonon, and the instrument, the kan-kan…”)

There is a lot of beauty in this. It might seem rather bleak to think that everything is a lie. However, the concept is not uncommon in philosophy. It stems from the notion that there are no origins because everything is essentially made up of everything else. Theorists like Jaques Derrida, and Michel Foucault explore this concept. So if there are no true origins, where do we centre ourselves? This comes from the idea that our perception of reality, what we think to be true, is only a subjective interpretation. Reality can only exist in multiplicity: multiple subjective perspectives that we interpret and represent through speech, art, actions, and everyday life. Interpretation and representation as ways to understand the world, stem from extremely old concepts that come from Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics from Ancient Greece.

Love the people around you (I guess you don’t always had to rub feet). This is simple. And while it is rooted in all religions it often interpreted, I believe, wrongly. There is usually a catch. Love the people around, as long as they… Love the people around you, provided they… Too many times I see this love turned into a moral high ground. I love you because you do not know what you do, really means, what I think you do is wrong, but I am going to sit here smugly and judge you through the lens of my own subjective perceptions of religion and life. Whether there is such a thing as pure love, and unbiased love, I don’t know. But it isn’t a bad thing to strive for?

Your karass and your kan-kan. While this might seem fatalistic-you have no control over your destiny so just give into it- I like to think of it as give into your own desires and follow where they take you (as long as your desires don’t involve mass murder). Too many times we have a voice inside ourselves that whispers, “What if…” and this voice is policed by our internalised cultural and social expectations: “Don’t do that… People will think your a fool/wrong/stupid/strange.” Life is short, and as the Bokononists say: those who rise from the mud will return to it.

I’m not sure Bokononism is for me, but it has taught me some great life lessons with sharp irony and blackest of humours around. Thank you Kurt. ( )
1 vote bound2books | Feb 12, 2017 |
A book of its times

Ice nine (a formation of water that is stable at room temperature) is but an artifice to allow the rumination

Big Ship

29 January 2017

(Borrowed from Kylie Brown) ( )
  bigship | Jan 28, 2017 |
I love me some Vonnegut. Would love to gift this book to every politician and pundit who repeats the acronym STEM reflexively when talking about education reform. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Firstly Vonnegut is a great writer. Entertaining, ever-readable and full of ideas. Cat's Cradle is a fine example of this. A funny novel, yet one full of rage and despair at humanity's stupidity, this was written at the height of the Cold War, when mutually assured destruction was a real possibility.

Centred on a journalist, Jonah, and his travails on the poor, pitiful island of San Lorenzo, Vonnegut manages to make fun of both religion, despots and the idiocy of weapons of mass destruction.

It is a broader novel than the haunting, elegiac Slaughterhouse Five, the characters bordering on stereotypes, but each serves a purpose, moving the story along to it's inevitable conclusion. It's a bleak but thought provoking read, the humour the blackest of black. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
John, who starts off researching what family members of the makers of the atomic bomb were doing on the day when Hiroshima was bombed, but soon gets caught up in a minor mystery that involves the children of physicist Felix Hoenikker. Add in a calypso singer’s personal theology, the odd substance called Ice-Nine, and a large helping of satirical humor and you have quite the book!

This was my first Vonnegut book (yep, I know, where have I been?) and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Sometimes I don’t care for satire because so often it is tied to certain political events or a political climate, and if you aren’t versed in those happenings, lots of it flies over your head. Not so with this book! Sure, there is some satire that refers to people and events that I’m not familiar with, but much of it was easy to pin down. Plus there’s plenty of other humor and the whole plot going on to keep me entertained. I was especially interested in the Ice-Nine. I figured it was tied into the dystopian theme the book’s description mentions, but it took forever to get around to it. Indeed, Ice-Nine and the ending of the world don’t play a part until the very end of the novel. So if you’re going into this novel hoping for a dystopian story, you will be a bit disappointed.

The calypso singer, Bokonon, has this theology (called Bokononism by the practitioners) that kicks off the book as John relates his story to us as if it’s all over, said, and done. John, in his own tale, doesn’t come upon Bokononism until he travels to the island of San Lorenzo, where he meets two of the Hoenikker children. The theology is filled with little truths that gave me a chuckle here and there. One of the little rituals Bokononists partake in is touching the soles of their feet to one another, making them feel closer to each other. Oddly enough, Bokononism has been banned on San Lorenzo even as everyone is secretly a Bokononist.

Each of the three Hoenikker children are rather different, but it was Newton Hoenikker, the youngest child, who caught my attention. He’s a dwarf and also a medical student. I liked his recollections of his dad and older siblings, his sister being the care-taker of the family once their mother passed away. Indeed, his descriptions of his father, the physicist, reminds me of so many scientists I knew when I worked in Los Alamos.

It took me a while to figure out why this book is called Cat’s Cradle and if you’re wondering the same thing, the answer does eventually come. It seems much of the book is that way: there’s this set up at the front end but it takes time to eventually arrive at those same things once again so that we fully understand them. For instance, the book starts off with some Bokononism stuff but it’s only later that we learn the origins of Bokononism. John hints that the world has ended, but we only find out how and why towards the very end of the novel. In this regard, I think this is one of those novels that is best read all in one sitting rather than broken up over a week.

In the end, I liked it. Yes, I did spend the entire book eagerly awaiting the dystopian bit the book’s description promises, but when it comes it is indeed a bleak world and I’m not sure how humanity will survive it. I didn’t get all the Bokononism stuff but it did provide quite a bit of entertainment. Hoenikker and his kids are the backbone that made this book interesting to me. I really enjoyed hearing what the now-grown kids had to say about their now-dead dad and growing up in the shadow of the atomic bomb project.

The Narration: Tony Roberts was a good pick for narrating this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and carried off the humor quite well. I liked his Indiana accent for Ma Hoosier and his Caribbean accent for the native San Lorenzoans. Also, this edition of the audiobook contained an older interview with Kurt Vonnegut that I found informative and amusing. In the interview, it’s rather informal as the interviewer is one of his good friends and it sounds like they are simply having a chat about his book and other things, like Vonnegut’s military experience. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | Nov 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
Jailbird is KV's surrealistic yet stunningly pertinent account of the part he played, under the alias of Walter F. Starbuck, as the least significant—and hitherto entirely unknown—conspirator in the villainies of Watergate. No, it isn't. It's a love-affair with language and ideas. If you read the publisher's blurb (which God forbid!) you'll be utterly misled by a prosaic example of abstracting at its lowest ebb, totally devoid of poetry, imagination, style and, (sin of sins) Kurt Vonnegutness.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, John A. Gordon (Oct 1, 1980)
"Cat's Cradle" is an irreverent and often highly entertaining fantasy concerning the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists. Like the best of contemporary satire, it is work of a far more engaging and meaningful order than the melodramatic tripe which most critics seem to consider "serious."

» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
House, JulianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, MarjattaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kunkel, BenjaminIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelham, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, TonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nothing in this book is true.
'Live by the foma* that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.'
The Books of Bokonon. I:5
*harmless untruths
For Kenneth Littauer

a man of gallantry and taste.
First words
Call me Jonah.
"No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's..."
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."
'Aamons, Mona', the index said, 'adopted by
Monzano in order to boost Monzano's
popularity, 194-199, 216n; childhood in com
pound of House of Hope and Mercy, 63-81;
childhood romance with P. Castle, 72f; death of father, 89ff; death of mother, 92f; embarrassed
by role as national erotic symbol, 80, 95, 166n.,
209, 247n., 400-406, 566n., 678; engaged to P.
Castle, 193; essential naivete, 67-71, 80, 95f,
116n., 209, 274n., 400-406, 566n., 678; lives with
Bokonon, 92-98, 196-197; poems about, 2n., 26,
114, 119, 311, 316, 477n., 501, 507, 555n., 689,
718ff, 799ff, 800n., 841, 846ff, 908n., 971, 974;
poems by, 89, 92, 193; returns to Monzano, 199?
returns to Bokonon, 197; runs away from
Bokonon, 199; runs away from Monzano, 197;
tries to make self ugly in order to stop being
erotic symbol to islanders, 80, 95f, 116n., 209,
247n., 400-406, 566n., 678; tutored by Bokonon,
63-80; writes letter to United Nations, 200;
xylophone virtuoso, 71'.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 038533348X, Paperback)

Cat's Cradle, one of Vonnegut's most entertaining novels, is filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game. These assorted characters chase each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature. At one time, this novel could probably be found on the bookshelf of every college kid in America; it's still a fabulous read and a great place to start if you're young enough to have missed the first Vonnegut craze.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:04 -0400)

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A satirical science fiction novel.

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Average: (4.12)
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1 30
1.5 18
2 139
2.5 48
3 709
3.5 197
4 1710
4.5 222
5 1762


3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141189347, 0141045442, 0241951607

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