Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle: A NovelTitle: Cat's Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Pages: 304
Published: 1998 Dell Publishing (orig. 1963)
Read For: Personal Challenge (5 Books From the Top 5 of 2010)
My Rating: 3.5

All right, book number 2 I've read by Kurt Vonnegut.  I settled on reading Cat's Cradle, (when I had been thinking of going with Breakfast of Champions,) because that's what my Local Indie Book Shop had in stock (as well as Timequake...but I know next to nothing about Vonnegut and his novels, so I made an uniformed impulsive decision.)

Slaughterhouse Five made it to my Top 5 of 2010 list, largely because of the unique writing, and I wanted to experience more of it.  Cat's Cradle grabbed me: the format of having a bazillion chapters (well, 127) in so few pages, combined with the humor that had me laughing instantly, and I was ready to dive in.  The first line(s):
Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did.  They called me John.
...and so starts a story of the end of the world.  For that is what the narrator sets out to tell, although he believes it will have a marked different ending than it ends up happening.  Before you even turn from the first page, you get straight into the story.
When I was a younger man--two wives ago, 250,000 cigarettes ago, 3,000 quarts of booze ago... 
When I was a much younger man, I began to collect material for a book to be called The Day the World Ended. 
The book was to be factual. 
The books was to be an account of what important Americans had done on the day when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. 
It was to be a Christian book. I was a Christian then.
I love the writing, I really do. I think I'll be reading Vonnegut's works for a long time simply because the writing is so much fun (and it is quick to read--bonus!).  But the story on this one just wasn't as fascinating to me as was the one in Slaughterhouse Five.  The storyline and characters started to feel a little Dickensian (I seem to be sensitive to that at the moment, anything slightly bizarre seems to be straight from the pen of Dickens) and was told in a much more straightforward manner than Slaughterhouse Five was, making it feel a bit less unique.

Still, he does say a lot with few words, (always amazing to me,) and relates a heavy message in a humorous voice, (a baffling talent).  There are all kinds of themes here to expound upon if you're up to it.  The issues presented (God, science, government, etc.) felt a little ho-hum to me, though that may be just my personal interest level (or lack thereof).

So this one won't be making it to any of my "Best Of" lists, but neither has it lowered my opinion of Vonnegut.  Next time I'm in my bookshop I just may hold out for Breakfast of Champions...maybe I'll have a bit better luck with that one?


  1. Slaughterhouse Five was my first Vonnegut, and it was a wild ride. And while I'd love to read more Vonnegut, I have been in a quirky mood lately (which is unusual for me).

  2. I meant to say I haven't been in a quirky mood. Cause Vonnegut demands quirk.

  3. Vonnegut totally demands quirk...felt great after January's reading!

    So what, then, (since you are in the middle of jousting,) is it that Joyce demands? I'm thinking patience?

  4. Good to see you're continuing on with Vonnegut. My husband just read Slaughterhouse Five based on your recommendation. We took it from PBS and the day after he finished reading it, it went back out to PBS again. Maybe Vonnegut is experiencing a resurgance?

  5. I loved Cat's Cradle, but I haven't read Slaughterhouse Five yet. I have gone half way through Sirens of the Titan, was really enjoying it - but had to give the book back to its owner before I finished, and haven't gotten myself another copy yet!

  6. Great review. I like the Melville pun he put in the beginning. I have read two Vonnegut novels myself (S5 and Breakfast) and I'm looking to get more into him in 2011. You might have just added Cat's Cradle to my reading calendar.

  7. I haven't read any Vonnegut, but have Slaughterhouse 5 sitting on my shelf. You are inspiring me to read him!

  8. Belle, what did your husband end up thinking about it? I do hope that Vonnegut becomes more widely read, his writing is unique and well worth renown.

    Sarah, that sounds frustrating! I'm glad to hear that Sirens was enjoyable, I'm getting the feeling that Vonnegut is fairly consistent in his writing quality. Something I'm looking forward to testing out. :)

    Ben, those first sentences are great, aren't they? He wastes no time setting the tone. I'm assuming that Breakfast of Champions was good? When read in between a bevy of classics and ARCs, Vonnegut is like a cold beer on a hot day.

    Wallace, just crack it open and read a page or two. I think you'll know fairly quickly if you are up for the ride. Like Fizzy said, you have to be ready for some quirk, but if you are it is great fun.

  9. I haven't read any Vonnegut. For this I feel like a horrible former-English-major. This one sounds great, and I have Slaughterhouse on my stacks somewhere. :)

  10. I'll ask him about Vonnegut. He's been reading like fiend lately - not that I mind one bit.

  11. Hi Melody,
    Sorry to be posting my response so late, but I've been busy finishing Sirens of Titan for my Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club meeting which was today (yes, I'm trying to make you jealous!). I have a post almost written about the meeting which I hope to have up later today/tonight.

    I'm so glad you are going forward with your Vonnegut reading. He has really won me over in the past six months or so. The KVMLBC is reading Cat's Cradle next month, and I'm looking forward to reading it again.


  12. Andi, it is entirely possible that there is nobody like Vonnegut--he's filled a hole in 20th Cent. Lit. that I didn't even know was mushy and gushy as that may sound! I hope you get a chance to check him out.

    Belle, I look forward to hearing what he thought!

    Jay, I'm happy to hear from you regardless of how soon or late it is. :) Discussing a Vonnegut book with a Vonnegut book club at a Vonnegut Memorial Library has to be such a fulfilling experience! I'm looking forward to reading about how it went. How long has it been since you read Cat's Cradle? It'll be good to read your thoughts on it.


I'd love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!