Brad’s Big Book Queue 2017 Book #8 of 25
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
I’m a little bit enamored with the books of Vonnegut these days, so much so that I’ve got at least two more to read this year and before this book queue runs dry. Maybe it’s because his work is fueled by a kind of absurdist nihilism that seems almost a little too en pointe for the modern political era, or maybe it’s because they are gorgeous layer cakes of metaphor and complex meaning that I feel like they are the kinds of books you need to read a dozen times before you even begin to understand –and this, my first read is merely the beginning of a long term relationship with an author who, tho now deceased, can help me make sense of a crazy world with some astute and keen observations of it through a science fictiony lens.
It also helps that a couple of the Cracked writers have spun off a book club-kinda podcast called the Kurt Vonneguys where they (comedically but intelligently) read and discuss books from the author, and having spent four hours reading, say, Cat’s Cradle I can immediately wander over and listen to a couple of smart and funny guys create a community discussion around it and point out, draw out, blurt out some of the more abstract nuances of the work that I missed on my first read through.
Cat’s Cradle is a narrative fiction of the last days of the world. The first person story reads like a scattershot reporting of the series of escalating coincidences that lead to an unassuming super-weapon being triggered by a crazy man on his deathbed. It is in part an allusion to the cold war and the nuclear build up era during which it was written, and in part a treatise on the self-destructive nature of human beings. It is absurdly abstract yet frighteningly prescient, and unlike much of most every other book you’ve probably read before.
Sticking with the theme of weird fiction, every year or so I pick off another novel in the library of my favourite Japanese author. I’ve been eyeing The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami for a while now, but it’s one of his bulkier offerings and I’ve always shuttled it down to second or third in my queue… something to read for another day, and though I almost did it again, I decided no… I’m going to read it this time for sure, and to finally dove in.
If it’s anything like Murakami’s other works –which it should be because this is apparently one of his definitive novels– this book will probably be something a slow burn surreal story, a narrative that plods though a seemingly random life as if you’ve picked a door by chance and sat down to watch someone live their boring old life, a story that meticulously describes the mundane of existence in excruciating detail, itemizes reality to the point of feeling like you’re reading someone’s shopping list… until it blindsides you with weirdness when you’re not paying attention.
I love it when that happens.