Though it took me a while to adjust to the language of young Jack's perspective, I found it fascinating — and true? At least it feels true that a fiveThough it took me a while to adjust to the language of young Jack's perspective, I found it fascinating — and true? At least it feels true that a five-year-old would be comforted by routine, that they'd have a nervous tic, that they'd be constantly confused by their literal interpretation of idioms, and that they'd cross-reference everything you say against everything else you've ever said. It seems right a child like Jack would listen to every word — even the words you're sure they're not listening to — and hold onto them and chew on them and regurgitate them when and how you least expect it. With some lapses, I think Donoghue did a great job of capturing what it might be like inside that head, filling in the vast gaps of thought between the sentences children actually say. I enjoyed being there.
There are also parts of this book that I reacted to quite viscerally; my stomach sank and my heart raced and couldn't stop reading. That's rare for me, and it was a treat.
That said, Jack is really the bread and butter (and butter knife and plate) of this book; the plot and all the other characters, such as they are, exist mainly to give him stuff to react to. There's nothing wrong with that, but it makes this book into a particular sort of thought exercise, and not anything greater.
If I'm nitpicking and high-horsing, there are also a few bits about how babies are born that reflect popular but incorrect assumptions. As a mother, I would have expected Donoghue to know better.
Oh well. What I think she gets right, more importantly, is that children thrive on love, and as long as they are loved, even the worst of worlds can be the one that feels like home....more
Vonnegut is one of those authors I should have been reading all my life because he captures so plainly, honestly, and beautifully both the hope and ho Vonnegut is one of those authors I should have been reading all my life because he captures so plainly, honestly, and beautifully both the hope and hopelessness of humankind.
I've wanted to read Cat's Cradle ever since I read Slaughterhouse-Five. The focus here is much more on science and religion than on war, but both books (and maybe all of Vonnegut's books?) are about human folly. And though it's clear that Vonnegut wishes the folly weren't so, it's not an exhausting slog of condemnation. Instead, it's like Vonnegut is God himself looking down on the world he created and the tiny humans within it, and he cannot help but love them. Even while he watches them destroy themselves and each other and everything else, and even while he cries and rages about it, he cannot help but be also amused and delighted by their ingenuity and their misguided passion.
That's Vonnegut, I think.
As for Cat's Cradle in particular, it's no spoiler that it talks at length about Bokononism, a religion practiced by many of the characters. My favorite part of the religion and perhaps the novel is the Bokononist terminology, which is used to refer to a variety of concepts that have no name in English. There's evidence that the language you speak can frame the way you understand the world, and with these new words I already find myself viewing the world differently. Just yesterday I found myself talking about somebody being a member of my karass, and I can't count the times in my life I would have whispered busy, busy, busy if only I'd known to explain things that way....more