Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Vonnegut was one of those writers who took me from my sci-fi adolescence and into a more general pursuit of 'literary fiction.' My copy of Cat's Cradle is part of a three-volume set I got from the Book of the Month Club. When I was a teen I used to scam book and music clubs using a P.O. box and my home address to sign myself up again and again as a 'friend' and reaping the benefits on both ends: free and very cheap books. After dozens of aliases and cancelations I had quite a library. Of course, these editions are crummy and crumble after a couple readings, but WTF? I just read it for the third time and my wife has read it three times too.

I read Vonnegut's entire catalog in about two weeks at age 16 before shelving my John Varleys and Robert Heinleins forever and tackling Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky--with his tragicomic heroes and holy fools--would have enjoyed Cat's Cradle.

I figured it was time to read Vonnegut again because I'd forgotten what a wampeter was. Kurt's like a really comfy sweater I can pull out when things are bleak and the world is particularly senseless. Not because he's an optimist--not at all. But he's dreadfully funny about dreadfully serious things. Cat's Cradle is delivered with the simplicity of a children's story, and I'll likely re-read it every twenty years or so if the world isn't encased in ice, burned by agitated atoms, or over-run by avian flu in the meantime.


Steven Hart said...

One of the great lost PBS broadcasts -- funnier than "I, Claudius," as bracing as the original "Connections" -- is "Between Time and Timbuktu," a made-for-TV movie that aired a few times in the early 1970s and apparently never again thereafter. It used a very slender plot line -- Stony Stevenson wins a jingle contest for an energy drink called BlastOff, in which first prize is to be launched into space and shot through a chrono-synclastic-infundibulum -- to string together some of Vonnegut's best known stories. Stony travels through alternate universes full of characters and scenes from "Harrison Bergeron," "Welcome to the Monkey House," "Happy Birthday Wanda June" and "Cats Cradle." I think Kevin McCarthy plays Bokonon. Bill Hickey is Stony Stevenson, and Bob and Ray appear as TV announcers covering the launch. As I remember, it was great. I'd love to see it again.

geoff said...

Sounds great--the first Vonnegut story I read was "The Big Space Fuck," in Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions, which featured sperm being blasted through a chrono-synclastic-infundibulum to inseminate the universe with humanity.

I must have been fourteen at the time.

I checked out some vendors of hard-to-find vids; Between Time and Timbuktu is much-requested, but the only copy I could find is a two-reel print in the WGBH vault. Not for sale.

Nick said...

Kilgore Trout=Theodore Sturgeon landing painfully on his knees. A fav, fav of the Lady's.

geoff said...

Cha reads maybe two books a year, and she's re-read a few Vonneguts--Cat's Cradle is her fave.

Seth Anderson said...

I meant to write earlier, but got distracted. Strange, really, but I could say this description fits me as well. Read every KV novel/short story in a sustained burst of interest somewhere in my teens. Well, except the book I re-read recently was Breakfast of Champions. And I just checked them out of the Austin Public library instead of scamming them. I saved my scamming for Columbia House and BMG. Blah blah blah, now I see why I didn't bother finish typing this earlier.

geoff said...

Funny, I never did the music mail-order scam. Guess that's because my buddy who worked at Camelot Music, uh, er, 'took care' of me.