Recently I read Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and I have to say that I am surprised that this is my first time reading it. I should have discovered Vonnegut ages ago. I should have read his whole body of work by now. In short, I love it and I’m glad to be reading it.
The religion discussed in the book, Bokononism, involves new terminology that Vonnegut sprinkles throughout without feeling too much like infodump. Here is a list of words and phrases:
-karass — original “team” of people set up by God to do his works (p. 14)
-sinookas — “tendrils of my life” (p. 16)
-“as it is supposed to happen” (p. 76)
-duprass — “a karass composed of only two persons. ‘A true duprass,’ Bokonon tells us, ‘can’t be invaded, not even by children born of such a union.'” (p. 78)
-granfalloon — a false karass; “Other examples of granfalloons are the Communist party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company…” (p. 82)
-and so on and so forth…
As you can see, these words are laughably weird, and I think that’s the point. As I was reading, I kept comparing Bokononism to Scientology, for the sole reason that both were created by people in the recent past (one in a fictional world and one in the real world). However, upon talking with my friend Alex about both this book and The Man in the High Castle, he and I realized that the Books of Bokonon and The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the book from High Castle, are similar in that they are written by men and that they affect everyone around them.
Something irked me about these two books, however. Cat’s Cradle is regarded as literary fiction, whereas The Man in the High Castle is “science fiction.” Why? What’s the difference? Both are about alternate-universe USA, both include absurd texts written by questionable characters, and both turn a critical eye on society. What is the actual difference? My theory is marketing; because this was not Vonnegut’s first book, they had to market it to similar audiences as his first works. The dichotomy between “genre” and “literary” is such a hot-button subject nowadays. I touched on it in an earlier post, but I know there are some parts I haven’t thought all the way through. What I do know is that it’s frustrating that two books with similar scopes aren’t given the same consideration.
Anyway. I enjoyed Cat’s Cradle. Tell me what you think about it in the comments!