Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vonnegut's Gone

A shame
, now, Kurt Vonnegut swallowed up, too.

I had the privilege of hearing him speak to a room of a few hundred students, faculty, and staff when I worked for the University of Georgia.

He was a hundred times funnier than his books and about a million times more profound, even when he was just reading excerpts.

My favorite of his books has to be Cat's Cradle. Some part of it just stuck to me. I remember having a new respect for the Grateful Dead when I learned they named their publishing company Ice-Nine.

Then there were those words. "No damn cat, and no damn cradle."

Some people might consider that sentiment fatalistic, much like the inevitable apocalyptic nature of the book.

I always considered it freedom. Once you stop trying to find the cat or the cradle you're free to see anything.

Or nothing.


I blame the man for telling me about Eugene V. Debs and, from there, hastening a slow decline into humanism and socialism.

So it goes.


Here is the cat's cradle conversation in full:

Little Newt stirred.
While still half-snoozing, he put his black, painty hands to his mouth and chin, leaving black smears there. He rubbed his eyes and made black smears around them, too.
"Hello," he said to me, sleepily.
"Hello," I said. "I like your painting."
"You see what it is?"
"I suppose it means something different to everyone who sees it."
"It's a cat's cradle."
"Aha," I said. "Very good. The scratches are string. Right?"
"One of the oldest games there is, cat's cradle. Even the Eskimos know it."
"You don't say."
"For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children's faces."
Newt remained curled in the chair. He held out his painty hands as though a cat's cradle were strung between them. "No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's . . ."
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."

No wonder kids grow up crazy. Not enough Vonneguts.

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