Busy, Busy, Busy

I am lost in the insanity and brilliance of Cat’s Cradle. Vonnegut is the Everyman that I would love to be. As Jonah (not his real name) stands in the background of an impossibly insane series of events, his drifting narrative ropes us into believing the impossible.

Jonah, like his biblical namesake, starts with a noble quest – to find out what one of the major creators of the atomic bomb was actually doing the day the bomb dropped and changed life and death as the world knew it. From an improbable letter from the inventor’s son, it seems that the creator of the atomic bomb, disconnected from humanity in his pursuit of pure science, was playing with a string, making “Cat’s Cradle” and frightening his height-challenged (read midget) son, Newt.

Where is the cat? Where is the cradle?

And how can one see it in the series of crisscrossed strings that resemble neither a cat nor a cradle?

Our hero discovers the existence of Ice-9, the genius’ final undocumented scientific breakthrough. It makes the destruction of the atomic bomb look like child’s play.

See the cat? See the cradle?

Jonah’s journey is indescribably brilliant, and it is entirely due to Vonnegut’s ability to remain current. This work was prompted by the Bay of Pigs crisis. It remains enormously relevant today, in these uncertain times, when governments tell us what we should or should not believe and spend obscene amounts of money to demonize any given target on any given day. Really, the conquerors of that tiny island where most of the action takes place had the right idea. They outlawed all religion and, therefore, everyone became a Bokononist. I’m considering it myself. I need a new granfallon.

We like to think that much has changed since 1963. But we are presented with our current fomas such as the acceptance of the thought that Americans are not highly regarded all over the world. Something has not changed a bit. Instead, we are presented with two concepts over and over: Science is not truth and neither is religion. However, the wholehearted pursuit of either one can lead to disaster. Sound familiar?

Where is the cat? Where is the cradle?

Vonnegut is the master of the ridiculous that touches on the eternal truth of the human condition. He invents vocabularies and religions and makes me want to know all the members of my karass, even though I know that I have none. His use of the Crosby’s and their ultimate granfallon – Hoosiers – demonstrates the lengths to which a human will go to belong to something. Or rather, to belong to anything.

There is no joy, really, in this novel, nor in any of Vonnegut’s work, although I did really like the Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse 5. He creates the seriously ridiculous or the ridiculously serious with the ease of a flower-bearer, scattering petals upon which his readers tread. I marvel at his ability to use the word “cantilevered” in a sentence without missing a beat – I dare any other writer to write “cantilevered” correctly in a paragraph.

His voice is unique. I always imagine it smoky with cigarettes and slightly slurred, as if he is taking a step away from the world after finding it sad, ridiculous, and utterly inexplicable.

And then he explains it. And I understand.

I am spellbound with wonder. I see the lights and tread on the blue-white terrain of certain death knowing that we are all in this together.

Maybe we are all Hoosiers.

9/10 hearts. Only because Boknonoism is not a viable religious option.


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