Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

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Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the number of truly brilliant books/stories/novels/works of art in the world. Truly.

Cat’s Cradle is probably my favorite book by Vonnegut, who’s always been one of my favorite authors. He’s written for more than 50 years now, and has had a huge effect on American and World literature — in my mind, in very many ways he’s a modern day Mark Twain (also a tremendous writer & thinker about his world, if not his get-rich-quick schemes).

This particular work is a story about Felix Hoenikker, father of the bomb (in this fictional world), his family, his invention ice-9, a small Carribean island named San Lorenzo, and a holy man named Bokonon (and his outlawed religion, Bokononism). Here’s a taste: "The first sentence in The Books of Bokonon is this: ‘All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.’ " Of course, the first page of Cat’s Cradle has this quote, also from The Books of Bokonon: "Live by the foma [harmless untruths] that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."

One of my favorite passages from the book:

Newt (Felix’s son) says, "For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces…No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s. . . No damn cat, and no damn cradle."

Anyway. This is maybe the third or fourth time that I’ve read this book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It gives you a very clear sense of hopes & fears during the Cold War, but at the same time seems very current and insightful towards today’s geopolitical situation.

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