don’t be alarmed, it’s only the end of the world: reading cat’s cradle

For the first red chair review, I have gone with a modern classic. One that pushes the boundaries and leaves you with that weird almost-falling feeling after you’ve turned the last page.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, all I can say is: get familiar.

Even if you hate the man and his work with all the pent up rage of a starving badger stuffed in a sleeping bag, I still say you must read this book.

Read Cat’s Cradle … but before we get too carried away, I think there needs to be a friendly heads-up for Vonnegut virgins:

Kurt Vonnegut could very well be the master of post-nuclear bomb Cold War anxiety and the bitter and relentless irony that seems to hang around all those mid to late 20th Century writers like a smell that we associate with hippies, weed and the colour brown.

In order to really get at the point that he is trying to make, though, I think you need to let go of that strange expectation that every story is going to have an adrenaline pumping twist or massive amounts of drama jammed in at every plot turn.

Moreover, I think we need to recognise the fact that (like the protagonist in Cat’s Cradle) we really have no control over any novel’s plot—or the real-life world around us for that matter—and at some stage we have to be content to just go with the flow.

Suffice it to say, if you like Michael Bay movies, you probably won’t like this book.

Reading Vonnegut is more about recognising that —whether by your own will or not—in 206 pages, nothing of note is ever really going to happen … and you have to be kind of okay with that.

That said, if you’re looking for drama, Vonnegut does seem to have a taste for killing his characters and bringing the world to a pretty frosty end most of the time, but there is usually some kind if wickedly sarcastic tone that makes you question whether this is necessarily a bad thing or even a thing to be noted at all.

In Cat’s Cradle the frosty part certainly fits when the world as we knew it in the 60’s ends as a result of an engineered molecule called Ice 9.

The plot centres on the first-person protagonist who calls himself Jonah and the three children of a brilliant Cold War scientist who develops Ice 9—a sliver of super-ice that freezes anything it comes in contact with and (for all we know) never melts.

Cutting a long plot summary short, a sample of Ice 9 is dropped into the sea through a series of mundane events, freezing the oceans and consequently every water source on Earth.

While this sounds pretty dramatic Jonah’s beautiful and sarcastic exhaustion with the world (built on Vonnegut’s delicious irony) diminishes these massive events to being about as silly and pointless as one of those cat’s cradles you make by wrapping a loop of string around your fingers.

Without giving too much away, Cat’s Cradle—like most of Vonnegut’s work—boils down to a “love it or hate it” dilemma and like a few readers, I still haven’t completely made up my mind.

You either love it for the irony and manically depressing hyper-reality that can only be comedic, recognising that the plot is pretty pointless which is essentially the beauty of it … or you despise it with the fury of burning flatulence in a cookie jar for pretty much the same reason.

In the end, the answer is simple:

Whether you love it or hate it, Cat’s Cradle is brilliant, witty, mundanely sexy and utterly uneventful. It’s a must read.

Sending you internet happies from the friend who won’t judge you for trying melted cheese on popcorn,

Curiosity

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