Thanks to everyone who came out on Tuesday night for our discussion of the Vonnegut classic, Cat’s Cradle. We enjoyed talking Bokononism with you and we all agreed that there is nothing wrong with digging Vonnegut as a grown up.
We did talk about books its no longer okay to enjoy as much as you did in high school. Which makes this amazingly timed article on Favorite Books of the Secretly Jerky from The Hairpin pretty fantastic, especially since there are some repeat offenders from our discussion here.
We also revisited our love of Newt, distrust of Mona and her bejeweled xylophone, and agreed that the Father of the Speculative Novel is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly deserves his place in the canon of great literature. We were not agreed on whether or not this is a good train book.
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
-Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater
In honor of our July discussion of Cat’s Cradle, this post is devoted to all things Vonnegut. Did I ever tell you that I wrote my high school junior thesis on Vonnegut? Man, I thought I was cool. It would be cooler if I could reproduce it for you here, but unfortunately I’ll have to spit out a bunch of factoids at you instead.
Many of us know Vonnegut as the King of quirky fiction, and any English major worth his salt has at least read Slaughterhouse Five (although according to this recent post from the goodreads blog, Cat’s Cradle is actually the superior work). Even though he passed away in 2007, Vonnegut continues to be a strong influence and favorite of speculative fiction fans the world over.
So any burgeoning Vonnegut fan should definitely check out his official website. It includes images of his art, both screenprints and sculpture, as well as a full bibliograpy.
In his autobiographical book, Palm Sunday, Vonnegut actually took the unusual move of publically grading his own most famous works on a letter scale. He compares “himself with himself” rather than with the literary world at large. His grades are as follows:
Each of the above is linked to our library catalog, so feel free to put these on hold and judge for yourself.
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, a library devoted to Kurt Vonnegut opened its door in Indianapolis in early 2011. They are doing some interesting things there, including offering a course to public school teachers who want to teach Vonnegut in the classroom, and they hold a monthly Vonnegut book club to discuss his work. They’ve also got a nice little blog that includes fun posts like this one on Vonnegut connections to modern pop music. While you are visiting Indiana, maybe you can check out his original manuscripts at the Lilly Library of Indiana University in Bloomington.
When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in the US, I was a 14 years old and eager to see what the fuss was about. When I got my hand on a copy, I was up all night, turning pages to find out what happened to Harry and Hermione, and even Ron, during their first year at Hogwarts. Twelve years later, I am trying to carve out a bit of time to reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and rewatch part one before heading to the theater for the final installment.
Whether you believe that there will be a “Harry Potter Generation” mingling with Generation Y (or the Millennials or whatever the terms are these days), you have to admit that there has at least been a Harry Potter Era.
The question then becomes, how do we celebrate the release of the last film in an age-appropriate way? Not that I’m opposed to costumes or quidditch for muggles…
Nancy at The Backyard Bartender has one answer in the form of Potter-inspired cocktails. What better way to celebrate your favorite characters than to raise a glass–or goblet–in their honor. With the release of the Deathly Hallows, part I, Nancy created cocktails for Hermione, Ron and Harry. Check out the recipes here. This month, she’s posted another batch of cocktails, this time honoring Luna, Draco, Neville and Snape.
They all sound delicious, but I particularly love her take on Neville, which she describes as “Tea-infused gin and Pimm’s: a little fussy, quintessentially British, and unexpectedly strong.” Not only does it sum up Neville perfectly, but it gives me another reason to love Pimms!
What do you think, genre X? Have Harry Potter and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army impacted your reading life? Will you, or have you already, bid farewell to your favorite wizard in style? Let us know in the comments.
One of my favorite ways to end a stressful night–or start a lazy Sunday–is to prop myself up in bed with a pile of cookbooks and a situationally appropriate beverage. Reading in bed is, in itself, a luxury that all book-lovers enjoy, but there’s something about the cookbook reading experience that is fundamentally different. Maybe it’s the beautiful, glossy photos, or the inevitable dinner party daydreams they inspire; I can’t say for sure. What I can is that the following titles are my current favorites to take to bed. Read more
The dog days of summer are here, and we at genre X are ready for a little escapism. So, let’s all beat the heat with a little old-fashioned sci-fi arms race satire, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
The fourth novel from master absurdest novelist Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle was originally published in 1963. Since then, its remained a favorite of the Vonnegut catalog, even earning the author an honorary Masters in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1971.
Since Kirkus reviews go waaaaay back, take a look at this review from its original publication run (and watch out if you haven’t read it before, because its SPOILERIFIC):
The narrator is researching for his book, The Day the World Ended, when he comes up against his karass, as he later understands it through Bokononism. It leads him to investigate Dr. Hoenniker, “Father of the A-Bomb”, whom his son Little Newt says was playing cat’s cradle when the bomb dropped (people weren’t his specialty). The good doctor left his children an even greater weapon of devastation in ice-nine, an inheritance which won his ugly daughter a handsome husband; little Newt, a Russian midget just his size for an affair that ended when she absconded with a sliver of ice-nine; and made unlikely Franklin the right hand man of Papa Monzano of San Lorenzo, a make-believe Caribbean republic. On the trail of ice-nine, the narrator comes in for Papa’s death and is tapped for the Presidency of San Lorenzo. Lured by sex symbol Mona, he accepts, but before he can take office, ice-nine breaks loose, freezing land and sea. Bokonon, the aged existentialist residing in the jungle as counter to the strong man, formulates a religion that makes up for life altogether: since the natives are miserable and there is little hope for changing their lot, he takes advantage of the release of ice-nine to bring them a happy death. The narrator’s karass is at last made clear by Bokonon himself, leaving him to commit a final blasphemy against whoever is up there. A riddle on the meaning of meaninglessness or vice versa in a devastation-oriented era, with science-fiction figures on the prowl and political-ologies lanced. Spottily effective.
Read the book, see if you find it “spottily effective”, and join us for a discussion on Tuesday, July 26th, at 8pm at Molly Malones in Forest Park. And if you still need a push, check out this quote from science fiction novelist Ted Sturgeon:
This is an annoying book and you must read it. And you better take it lightly, because if you don’t you’ll go off weeping and shoot yourself.