I have wrestled with how to write about Cat’s Cradle for a long time now. I wanted to deliver something wonderful and insightful to The Scramble because this book deserves that. So here’s a small spoiler alert for Cat’s Cradle: every few pages the reader finds an immaculately written paragraph or a memorable ha-ha or a bit of imagination that skirts up against reality so closely you have to think twice about whether it could possibly happen or has happened already and was simply re-phrased by Vonnegut so neatly that it now reads utterly new. But when it comes down to it and I am faced with page after page of Vonnegut’s smart and lively voice all I can honestly say in this review is: read it. Read Cat’s Cradle. It was written in 1963 and it remains a clear-headed portrait of us. Like all things Vonnegut, the book is a bit funny, a bit sad, and wise from start to finish. That’s my review. Below are the options I considered for the review but this book doesn’t need any of the fancy contortions I was considering.
- I was going to suggest literary genetics. I was going to compare Tarrantino’s writing with Vonnegut’s. I wanted to posit that Vonnegut was really Tarrantino’s father and you could prove it by conducting a side by side comparison of their writing. But that didn’t work out so well when I found a Tarrantino interview where T. claimed he was inspired by Elmore Leonard and Raymond Carver. No mention of Vonnegut.
- I was going to compare Cat’s Cradle’s sparse and clear writing to another book I had just finished, Dora: A Headcase, which was a horrid meaningless little book that aspired to be the 21st century version of Catcher in the Rye. Overwritten. Vonnegut doesn’t overwrite. I was going to compare paragraphs from the two books. And I was going to conclude that simplicity and directness is what distinguishes great writing.
- I was going to write about Bokononism which is the religion that Vonnegut develops in Cat’s Cradle. But a person could get bogged down in covering Bokononism. Let me share a tidbit or two about Bokononism: the religious texts are written in the form of calyposos.; Ambrosia wrote “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” inspired by one of the calypsos in the book; and my friend Webb, who I haven’t spoken to in years and with whom I have never discussed Cat’s Cradle, wrote on his Facebook page “I love my Karass” and I knew exactly what he meant. Vonnegut keeps us tied together in his secret language.
- I was going to write about what may be my favorite passage of fiction of all time and compare it to my friend Foster’s favorite fiction passage. And then I thought we could have a Scramble challenge and let people post their “favorite/best paragraph” from fiction. That could be darn fun. Anyway, I’ll end this review of Cat’s Cradle with a piece from the book, which I think may be one of the most wonderful passages of fiction of all time.
- ssage. And then I thought we could have a Scramble challenge and let people post their “favorite/best paragraph” from fiction. That could be darn fun. Anyway, I’ll end this review of Cat’s Cradle with a piece from the book, which I think may be one of the most wonderful passages of fiction of all time.
“The trouble with the world was,” she continued hesitatingly, “that people were still superstitious instead of scientific. He said if everybody would study science more, there wouldn’t be all the trouble there was.”
“He said science was going to discover the basic secret of life someday,” the bartender put in. He scratched his head and frowned. “Didn’t I read in the paper the other day where they’d finally found out what that was?”
“I missed that,” I murmured.
“I saw that,” said Sandra. “About two days ago.”
“That’s right,” said the bartender.
“What is the secret of life?” I asked.
“I forget,” said Sandra.
“Protein,” the bartender declared. “The found out something about protein.”
“Yeah,’ said Sandra, ‘that’s it.”
Nice, Nice, Very Nice.