CAT’S CRADLE by Kurt Vonnegut
Dial Press, 1998
originally published in 1963
This is one of those books that’s more interesting to think about than it is to read. The main word I’d use to describe this deceptively short book is tedious – though Vonnegut hits his mark with the humor more often than not, the meandering, repetitive style gets old, and even the once-funny jokes start to become stale. It’s also the kind of classic that hasn’t aged well, at all; jokes about dwarfism and sexist remarks abound – it’s inevitably going to induce more than a few cringes from the modern reader.
So, why 4 stars? Because it’s fascinating and smart as hell. This novel is filled to the brim with intriguing, relevant, timeless ideas: how religion adapts to suit the needs of the people, conceptions of social identity and what it means to belong to a group, the paradoxical role of science in how it’s used by humanity – both for medicine and for warfare. The interplay between science and religion in this novel is done so well, as is the bizarre fusion of absurdity and realism. This was my first Vonnegut, and I can’t help but to think I would have enjoyed his work a bit more if I’d read it when I was a teenager, but it was every bit as thought-provoking as I’d been led to believe and I’ll certainly be looking into reading more of his works at some point.
I read this novel as a part of the Traveling Book Review organized by Kaleena over at Reader Voracious: Kaleena shipped out her copy of Cat’s Cradle and a group of us are sending it around and scribbling notes in the margins while we read. It was such fun! I was only the third on the list, so I’m excited to see what everyone else thinks.