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Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
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Cat's Cradle (1963)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (199)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (204)
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
A quirky apocalyptic tale as only Vonnegut could write. Full of odd characters and strange situations. And why is it called "Cat's
Cradle?" Well, you will have to read it to fimd out, as well as to learn about Bokononism and ice-nine. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Think what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.

In 1963, when this book first came out, the world was still unclenching after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The nervy terror beneath the posturing of the Cold War is writ large here, and in cartoon colours; indeed the very name of the Cold War finds a deadly literality in Vonnegut's ‘ice-nine’, the chemical compound that will destroy all life on earth. Vonnegut's tone – a desperate hilarity which, I think, reflects real fear – has something in it that reminded me of Tom Lehrer's nuclear anthem ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’ of a few years later:

And we will all go together when we go!
What a comforting fact that is to know!
Universal bereavement,
An inspiring achievement!
Yes, we all will go together when we go!


Vonnegut's apocalyptic outlook is saved from the taint of adolescent cynicism because of his constant reminders that things could be so much better. There's a melancholy utopianism in his worldview, which is represented, in Cat's Cradle, by the Caribbean religion of Bokononism. Unlike most religions, Bokononism is up-front about its fictional nature: honesty, for Vonnegut, is the quickest path to wisdom, however uncomfortable, and the extracts from Bokononist teachings are among the most appealing parts of his story.

‘Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.’

It took me a while to warm up to Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut's approach is broadbrush, his language basic (though there are some nice lines – we hear that one character ‘ran to the heart of the house in the brainless ecstasy of a volunteer fireman’). The cast is made up of cut-out stock figures, including the brash American abroad, the high-minded impersonal scientist, the fat third-world dictator, the teenage hula-girl sex object. But in the second half of the (short) book, with everyone brought together on a remote fictional island, these elements start to combine in surprisingly powerful ways. When you look back on the book, this is the bit you remember: cartoon characters on an island, swapping religious parables and making jokes about imminent extinction. I suspect people who read this some years ago have forgotten the whole first half in New York – I suspect this because I read it a couple of days ago, and that bit's already hazy to me.

And the ending is so memorable because, despite the slapstick, it is deadly serious. Maybe a few years, or even months ago, one could have enjoyed the story uncomplicatedly, but it's funny how these things come around again. In his introduction to the Penguin Modern Classics edition, Benjamin Kunkel meditates on the following Bokononist verses:

Duffle, in the Bokononist sense, is the destiny of thousands upon thousands of persons when placed in the hands of a stuppa. A stuppa is a fogbound child.

‘Even the silly coinages of Bokonon,’ Kunkel deadpans, ‘seem to have taken on, for Americans at least, a certain utility and precision.’ But – oh god! – he wrote this in 2008, under George W Bush – a poor leader, but a peerless statesman in comparison to the detestable thundercunt presently in office, who has turned a book that should be a period piece into a model of contemporary relevance. Vonnegut would have been disgusted, but wholly unsurprised. ( )
3 vote Widsith | May 10, 2017 |
We doodley do what we muddily must. ( )
1 vote Jon_Hansen | Mar 27, 2017 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 199 (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.
 
"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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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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Awards and honors
Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Kenneth Littauer

a man of gallantry and taste.
First words
Call me Jonah.
Quotations
"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..."
"And?"
"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)

(see all 7 descriptions)

A satirical science fiction novel.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141189347, 0141045442, 0241951607

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