Thursday, November 15, 2007

Books: Cat's Cradle

This the third of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut's books that I've read. The first I read was the one he's best known for, Slaughterhouse-Five, and the second was Galápagos, which my friend Brian got me started on reading aloud on a road-trip along the Oregon coast.

Most people know about Slaughterhouse-Five if they're familiar with Vonnegut at all, but Cat's Cradle comes a close second. It was the first novel of his to get much attention in 1963, and I can see why. Cat's Cradle is trademark Vonnegut, with crisp writing, an engaging conversational voice, and a pervasively off-kilter point of view that leaves you constantly guessing what will happen next.

In contrast with Slaughterhouse-Five, which is defined by it's non-linear story, Cat's Cradle follows a more standard narrative arc. That does not, however, make the story straightforward. The book's jam-packed with odd side-lines, quotes from the made-up religion of Bokononism, and stunningly original concepts. Vonnegut mixes these up in such a way that you never quite know whether something is crucial to the plot or tossed in as a bonus, but it all makes you want to keep reading.

I highly recommend Cat's Cradle, especially to anyone who hasn't read Vonnegut before. It'll definitely tell you whether he's an author you'd like to read more of, and if you do there are many other treats in store.

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