Shaz S's Reviews > Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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's review
Mar 13, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010
Read from March 13 to 16, 2010

Ok, I admit, I'm the last person on earth to read Cat's cradle, but I'll definitely not be the last one to say that it blew my mind and one of the few books that I'm going to re-read again and again till I practically remember each Calypso the book has to offer.

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, "Why, why, why?"
Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understands.

I like my authors not only to be the masters of words, but also the masters of wit and sarcasm and Kurt Vonnegut seems to be winning the race with this one. The book is a satirical commentary on the futility of the arms race, the ambiguity of religion, why there is no such thing as sin when it comes to science and the things people do for love. The book is 200 pages long, a fast read but quite heavy on philosophy and in the author’s own word, nothing in the book is true.
John (or Jonah) is planning to write a book on the day the atomic bomb was dropped. During the course of research he comes in contact with the late Dr. Felix Hoenikker's (father of the atomic bomb) three children. While interviewing them he becomes privy to the information that at the time of his death Dr. Hoenikker was working on a synthetic chemical called "Ice-nine", an isolated crystal which can cause water to freeze at relatively high temperatures. After the scientist's death, the newly created, apocalyptic, ice-nine is divided equally between the three children, who use this powerful substance to their own petty means. Angela, the eldest gives her share to her trophy husband who works for the American government. Frank gives his share to "Papa" Monzano; dictator of a fictional banana republic called San Lorenzo and becomes his right-hand man. Newt, the youngest gives his share in the name of love to a midget Russian dancer/spy who passes it on to the Russian government.
But this is not the most memorable part of the book. What makes the book a true work of genius is the belief system practiced in secret by each and every person in San Lorenzo, called Bokononism. It’s a faith created by the elusive Bokonon, which has nihilistic teachings dipped in a whole lot of humour and poetry and which mixes ritualistic faith and common-sense. No wonder it is outlawed and anyone found practicing it is given the “hook”. Bokononism by far is the most amusing fictional religion I have ever come across.

While the narrative gets a bit drab in the middle, the climax with the earth literally freezing over makes up for any lack of intensity. The book resonates with me on so many levels and I've just started to scratch the surface here. I can’t wait to re-read and find other hidden meanings in Vonnegut’s dark humour. And I’m totally using the taunting action where I hold out my hand palms facing each other, spread my fingers apart and ask "See the cat? See the cradle?" when I want to emphasize my point of irony and dismay. Well at least for the next few days.

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