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popov89's Profile Picture
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Most of my stories are silly one off pieces about some magical land influenced by my limited knowledge of Scottish myth.
I recently finished a collection of Russian short stories that had been staring me down for the past four or five years. The stories ranged from excellent to middling and quickly forgotten. I found it somewhat funny that the longest story by 15 or so pages came from Dostoyevsky, naturally. It was a good piece, again, naturally. Tolstoy's was a good fable. Maxim Gorky's rather depressing and unfortunately named Twenty-Six Men and a Girl is a mostly enthralling piece of socialist realism in literature where life is presented starkly. Lazarus by Leonid Andreyev is a strikingly bleak little story about how Lazarus so joyfully resurrected is soon cast aside by his fellow mortals for his unearthly stare. It was around the time that I 'd finished these short stories that I realized that I had been reading European authors almost entirely for the past only God knows how long. There's nothing wrong in that, but I desperately wanted to read something written by a fellow American after such a long stint in Europe. What better American author to read for a hip fuck like me than Kurt Vonnegut?

When I first read Cat's Cradle some three or four years ago I didn't enjoy it. In point of fact, I detested it. I found it way too up its own ass much as Vonnegut's other novel Player Piano which I absolutely loathed. I felt hipper than anyone since I rejected the praise thrown on Vonnegut as some fantastic author who was oh so witty. Like many things I previously held as iron clad fact this stance on Mr. Vonnegut has changed. I always enjoyed Slaughterhouse 5, but that was all. What changed was, as simply put as can be, I just got Cat's Cradle this time. Whereas before it was just a teeming mass of words, now I see the symbolism, what things are meant to represent, and all that. Although, maybe I shouldn't see anything at all if the book is meant to be about what I think it is.

What's most interesting about the book is that at the end of the day, it's an Armageddon tale straight out of any pulp sci-fi book. A dangerous new chemical called ice-9 has been discovered by a man with seemingly no humanity in him and three children each with their own eccentricities and demons. Newt, a man standing at four feet tall fell in love with another Ukrainian dancer about the same height. His sister Angela forced to take care of her father as if he were a baby sacrificed her youth entirely. Frank the middle child who was so distant from people that he was called secret agent x-9 by mocking classmates. Throw in a pair of diplomats, a bicycle factory owner and his proud to be from Indiana wife, a corrupt president close to death, a spiritual leader on the run who insists never to take anything he or anyone says as serious, a Nazi doctor intent on righting the wrongs he committed, and a few others, including the narrator, an exceptionally witty author trying to write a book about the man behind ice-9, and the book doesn't lack for character.

The strength of the text comes out in its satire and very accurate if biting portrayal of modern science, humanity, weaponry, nationality, or whatever else forms a false karass. A karass being a term used to describe a group of people united without regard to nation, religion or ideology. Oh yeah, there's an entire religion created in the book. It's reason for existing is best left to discover.

Initially, my problem with the book those few years ago was that the story took this extremely dark turn near the end that came out of nowhere. I won't spoil, but Cat's Cradle requires an active and probing mind to follow along with it. For such a short book there is a near endless rampage of satire and laughing at the sadness of it all. Before I can explain a scene that sticks to my mind about Cat's Cradle, some background is needed. The narrator is intent on writing a book about one of the men behind the atomic bomb. To get some personal anecdotes the narrator travels to the location where this man spent his time creating weapons for the US government. Traveling to one the heads of the company, the narrator talks with a receptionist about the goings on of the place. It just so happens that a whole horde of women write down what the various scientists of the facility dictate throughout the day. Despite it being clear that science should be comprehended by even children no matter how complex so says the heads of the company, these women either refuse to or cannot understand the extremely complicated science going on at the factory. They don't really care however, just to get paid. So there's this place where there is a clear divide between those that know and create and those that simply copy and paste what they hear. It's unsettling considering how much death must come out of that place. This theme continues throughout the book as well.

I won't go further since I would be loathe to ruin more of the story. This is a book worthy of exploration. Most enjoyable is that it moves at such a brisk pace with chapters rarely lasting more than two pages. This structure encourages continuous reading as well as the near constant wit and quality writing can make it quite easy to read the whole text in one sitting. Digesting it however takes some more time.
  • Listening to:
  • Reading: The Development of Capitalism in Russia


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NomadicMusic Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you for the favorite!
Darkness-Melody Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014
Thank you for faving my poem "The Tale of Tamas Lin". If you have an comments or critique, please do share.
DeathlessLegends13 Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2013  Student Writer
not-an-emo-girl942 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the :+fav: and the watch!
(1 Reply)
Egoariana Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2013
Happy birthday! ^_^
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