” ‘…When a man becomes a writer, he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at top speed.'”
“Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
As a fan of the few Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. books I have read so far, I was extremely pleased to find an old, endearingly battered copy of Cat’s Cradle sitting on the train station book cart, waiting for me to take it home. Reading the back cover, I was a little concerned, though. It seemed fairly scattered, the description giving a litany of different odd things, claiming that “no one but Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. could have created this masterful mix of satire, fantasy and all-too-real realism. An ultimate commentary on modern man and his madness…” I felt skeptical right from the get-go, as much as I adored my Vonnegut experience so far.
That skepticism turned out to be prophetic. While the book was solid by most terms, I simply could not be moved by it as I had been moved by Mother Night or even (and I know I’m in the lesser here) Galapagos. I’m pretty sure Cat’s Cradle, chronically the adventures of a man doing a biography on the man who created the atomic bomb, which leads him to a small Not-At-All-Cuba island in the Caribbean, was the “ultimate commentary on modern man and his madness” back when it was first written back in 1963. Fifty years later, however, the modern world has changed, as has the zeitgeist of this book. The threat of the Caribbean dictator and atomic war has lost a lot of their punch in the twenty-first century; even the ice-covered end of the world seems unlikely in our Global Warming culture, though I did enjoy that aspect of the book. I just mostly felt that time has stolen a lot of the tension from this particular cat’s cradle.
With that said, there were a lot of wonderful, sharp-witted lines that I absolutely loved, as one would expect from Vonnegut, and one particular chapter, wherein the narrator nearly loses his wife-to-be when she refuses to acknowledge that her promiscuity is sinful, was absolutely one of my favorite chapters I’ve ever read. Yes, I get the commentary on socialism and patriotism and Communist hunting and religion and all that stuff, but it comes off as stale and rooted in that particular time, rather than timeless and eternal. Some aspects, some of the Cat’s Cradle’s intricately webbed threads, still resonate, but it’s surrounded by too much that just fell flat for me.
Plus, the whole time I was reading, I kept picturing it as a movie with Peter Dinklage as the midget Newt Hoenikker. Not a bad thing, really, but the Dink is pretty distracting.
Books read: 013/100.