Oh, Kurt, how I love you.
Last night I finished my third Kurt Vonnegut novel. I’ve attempted once before to write a review of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
I’ll be honest; it was a bit of a challenge.
I feel like this attempt will be a bit easier as Cat’s Cradle doesn’t jump around quite as much Slaughter-house Five does. Also, this review isn’t for a grade…unless there’s something Justin and Kelsey aren’t telling me…
When I was about halfway through reading Cat’s Cradle I had a realization. That realization was what it is about Vonnegut’s writing that I love so much. Vonnegut is well known for his satirical commentary on a broad array of events. But what I realized about his commentary is that it is so subtle you barely even notice it. If you’re not paying much attention you can straight up miss it.
I found myself doing this on occasion while reading Cat’s Cradle. The first line of the book jacket description is, “Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness.”
Before I go on, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the book.
Jonah, the voice of the story, is gathering information for his book, which is all about the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. His endeavor leads him to meet a grand assortment of people, including the three children of Frank Hoenikker, father of the atom bomb, each of whom posses a particle of the deadly ice-nine.
Each supporting character in Vonnegut’s book plays a part in giving some insight to the madness of man the author is attempting to highlight. The Hoenikker children are mad enough to flit away bits of ice-nine in order their obtain their own personal wants. “Papa” Monzano, President of San Lorenzo, perpetuates a government in a place that neither needs it or really wants it.
There is an apparent futility and self-indulgence in many of the actions of the characters. I found myself thinking on multiple occasion how silly all these people were, how foolish. But then I realized that I am not so different. No human really is.
In the book the reader is also introduced to Bokonon, a calypso singer who creates his own theology, a theology that every citizen of San Lorenzo prescribes to. Bokonon understood that the truths people had to deal with were terrible. So instead he made up wonderful lies for them. But the curious thing is, there is an awareness of the lies.
There is a couplet, taken from The Books of Bokonon that Jonah describes as, “…capturing…the cruel paradox of Bokononist thought…”
Midget, midget, midget, how he struts and
For he knows a man’s as big as what he hopes
How do we know what we believe is true? Perhaps some of life’s greatest truths are lies we tell ourselves. But maybe sometimes it is our awareness of the lie, our acknowledgement of the harsh reality and our choice to turn away from it, that makes the lie come true.
Since it is Banned Books Week and Cat’s Cradle is my banned book pick, I figure it would be smart to tell you why this book is banned.
It was first banned by an Ohio school district in 1972. The reason, you ask? Well, the best explanation I could find is that Cat’s Cradle was banned in tandem with Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater after a board member had read part of the latter and found it to be “completely sick” and “garbage.” It seems likely that none of the board members opposed to Cat’s Cradle had even so much as looked at it. It has also been speculated that people might have taken issue with Vonnegut’s apparent anti-war stance.
Don’t let someone else make your decisions for you.
See the cat? See the cradle?