I started reading a book from an author from each state, going alphabetically. So, for Indiana, I chose CAT’S CRADLE by Kurt Vonnegut. You can look for the deeper meaning in his books, or you can just enjoy the “trippy” ride.
This is an apocalyptic tale that somehow ends up being absurdly comic. Published in 1963, it is told by the first-person narrator who calls himself Jonah – but probably really is named John. The plot revolves around a time when Jonah decides to write a book called THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED about what American’s did on the day of the bombing of Hiroshima.
While researching the book, Jonah travels to Ilium, New York, the hometown of the late Felix Hoenikker, the co-creator of the atomic bomb to interview his children and co-workers. There he learned about ICE-NINE, an alternative water that freezes at room temperature. If it so much as touches a drop of regular water, that will freeze, too, spreading so rapidly that it freezes everything that comes into contact with it.
He discovers Hoenikker’s three children carry this with them. He also learned from his youngest son, a dwarf named Newt, that remembers his father doing nothing more than playing the game Cat’s Cradle with him the day the bomb was dropped.
Jonah/John travels to the Caribbean nation of San Lorenzo, one of the poorest nations on earth, to find Hoenikeer’s oldest son Frank. He find a guidebook where he learns about the religious movement called Bokononism, with the sacred text written in the form of calypsos. Bokononism is based on the concept of foma, which are defined as harmless untruths.
When he gets to San Lorenzo, John finds Frank’s ice-nine particle. A scientist in control of the particle accidentally releases it into the ocean. This freezes the ocean, killing plants and sea life. Basically, this succeeds in freezing all the worlds oceans and only a handful of people survive.
That’s the short version, but the themes found are issues about free will and man’s relation to technology. It is a relatively short book, with irony, black humor and parody throughout. Vonnegut said about his books, they “are essentially mosaics made up of a whole bunch of tiny little chips…and each chip is a joke”.
The book has been optioned by Leonardo De Caprio. There has been a calypso musical adaption performed. Oddly, the Gradeful Dead’s publishing company is ICE NINE, from the fictional substance that appears in this book.
One thing Newt says throughout the book about a Cat’s Cradle – it is neither a cradle and there is no cat. hmmm.
I think the most ironic part of the history of the book, The University of Chicago turned down Vonneguts’ thesis in 1947, but they gave him a master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this book!
Oh, and the main character, Jonah/John, is a proud Hoosier from Indianapolis.
So – my quest will take me next to Iowa and I will spend some time with one of my favorite writers, Bill Bryson.
If you have any books by authors from either Kansas or Kentucky, let me know!!!! Some states are easier to find authors than others. As I have refined my quest, I try to find books that have some tie to the state – so this one was a stretch.
Have you read this before? I’d love to know your thoughts about it!