By Kurt Vonnegut
“My God–life! Who can understand even one little minute of it?”
“Don’t try,” he said. “Just pretend you understand.”
“That’s–that’s very good advice.” I went limp.
Kurt Vonnegut and I have very little in common. The sole connection we have is the Hoosier blood that has coursed through our veins. But even then, I’m sure the Indianapolis of the 30s was very different from the Indianapolis I know and love today. So really, we have nothing in common. Nothing at all. So when I read Vonnegut’s books, why do I feel like he has read my mind and turned my own thoughts and feelings into something more beautiful than I ever could have imagined?
Most books are just books. There are really good ones and okay ones and bad ones and boring ones and ones that are probably really good but over your head. But then there is that rare book that strikes the soul–that feels like the author has some deeply intimate understanding of the way you think. When you read that book, it’s like finding your authorial soulmate. You don’t want to share that experience with others, because any attack on that author feels like an attack on you. That’s how I feel about Vonnegut. I think his thoughts and words are intrinsically beautiful and monumentally important.
Right. So he’s a wonderful writer and brilliant thinker and bla bla bla, but this is a review of Cat’s Cradle, right? What is Cat’s Cradle about? Well. It’s about a man called Jonah–his parents called him John–who finds himself on a plane to the tiny island of San Lorenzo where he plans on interviewing people for his book, The Day the World Ended. On that plane and on that island, he talks to people about politics and religion and life and love, and he learns that nothing in life is ever simple or easy or true. It’s about the way humans are all connected to each other and how our actions can impact people half-way around the world who never knew us. It’s about life’s catch-22s and unfairness. It’s about stupid people who run things into the ground. It’s about sense and purpose. It’s about everything.
That, I think, is Vonnegut’s secret. His uncanny ability to write about so much while condensing these large ideas into such small books without losing any sense of magnitude or understanding. His books overflow with vivacity. Reading his work is like spending time with your love–thrilling, easy. Cat’s Cradle was never a chore, never boring. I lost track of time, and when I came to the end, I didn’t want it to stop. Vonnegut is bizarre, his tongue is sharp, and his little pokes and jabs at society are dead on. He makes me laugh at the world and wonder about life. So go on. Give it a try. You may really enjoy Cat’s Cradle. But just like romance, we don’t all fall in love with the same people. I hope you love Kurt Vonnegut, but I can’t promise you will be as smitten as me.