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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

Started 6/6, Finished 6/12

Reading Vonnegut is a pleasure, because it seems like he took great pleasure in writing it. The characters materialize, the plot is shot from a gun, and you finish the book before you realize how much fun it is. Hijinks rush past as though the levee was built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Now, I'm not exactly sure I was supposed to have this much fun reading about the end of the world, but here we are. I think I missed a lot, symbolism, themes, references to things from the era that whiffed by my head, but I'm not going to worry about it. So far it's the kind of book that seeps into my head and rattles around a bit. As I later read the Crying of Lot 49 I found myself thinking back to Cat's Cradle, comparing the two, finding parallels, and seeing more of what Vonnegut was going for.

Specifically, I really took to the concepts of Bokononism, the religion born of a calypso singer on a remote (fictional) Carribean island. It's interesting to read something that picks apart religion so effectively that it takes on a life of its own. You look up, proud of yourself for standing with Vonnegut, looking out at the sea of sheep following one thing or another, then you find yourself, just for a moment, quoting Bokonon as blindly as ever did a Scientologist quote Hubbard.

busy, busy, busy

It would be dishonest for me to sit here and break this story down, to tell you my take on the brilliance of Vonnegut and his take on the politics, fears, and insecurities of the day. If I did that I would be engaging in the sort of pseudo-intellectualism I hate, because I would be making most of it up. A lot of this went over my head, I'll be honest. I think it'll merit a re-reading later in life, because it's easy to see how deep the subtext goes. For this reading I was content to get the broad strokes, to understand the world-view perspective he took. Which is to say, I really *got* the last 100 pages. Before that there was some serious satire going on, most of which seems to have been context-sensitive. If you look out at Amazon, most of the people there dismiss this book entirely based on the seeming randomness of the plot, but I refuse to accept that. I'll just have another go later when I've read more of him and other writers of the period.

Not my strongest review, but save the real criticism of my "technique" for the next one.

Book #17 will be The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon

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