Sunday, February 16, 2014

"See the cat? See the cradle?"

Book: one-volume edition of Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Published: this edition 1990 (Dell Publishing)
Pages: ...guys, I was forced to get Windows Eight when my laptop crashed a couple months ago, and I still don't know where the calculator is. I'd say about 900.

Like any sensible person between the ages of 16 and 30, I've fallen in love with Kurt Vonnegut.

I lucked out by finding this three-in-one volume of Cat's Cradle; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; and Slaughterhouse-Five at the used bookstore and was able to parcel it out one novel at a time over the past few weeks. I seem to be reading Vonnegut in diminishing order of his absurdity, because I went from a writer who inadvertently gets tangled up in the government succession of a tiny island nation to a rich volunteer firefighter who gives up all his money to help people to a semi-memoir of being a POW during the firebombing of Dresden. So it goes.

Of course it's all great. Vonnegut reveals the absurdity of the human condition through characters that take it as a matter of course and a light omniscient touch that seems to be chuckling out of one side of his pen while weeping out of the other. Out of all that comes a startling clear humanistic philosophy that takes no bullshit and is so deft that you'll wonder why nobody thought to put it that way before.

My favorite example of this is when the midget heir in Cat's Cradle talks about that game, which his distant scientist father always played with them, and the kid got mad that there's no actual cat or cradle, it's all just a bunch of strings. Also good: when Rosewater is contemplating how he's going to baptize twin babies, and he says he'll tell him the earth is warm and wet and round and crowded, and then: "There's only one rule that I know of, babies - God damn it, you've got to be kind."


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