Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Bokononism

Grad School Vonnegut #11: CAT’S CRADLE! (with Patrick Iber)

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Like boko-maru for your ears, it’s episode 11 of Grad School Vonnegut, on Cat’s Cradle, with UW’s Patrick Iber!

Written by gerrycanavan

August 22, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Busy, Busy, Busy

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Busy, busy, busy, as the Bokononists say.

* Sci-Fi has put out a “Catch the Frak Up” video for the last four seasons of Battlestar Galactica.

* All about Patrick Fitzgerald, the man everybody wants to put in charge of everything.

* Daily Routines: how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days. Via MeFi, which has some greatest hits.

* In 1945, after the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities, J. Robert Oppenheimer expressed foreboding about the spread of nuclear arms. “They are not too hard to make,” he told his colleagues on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.M. “They will be universal if people wish to make them universal.” How the bomb spread (and didn’t) around the world.

* The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has named WALL-E the best film of the year. It’s a bit of a strange choice against Dark Knight and Synecdoche, among others, but WALL-E was a hell of a good film, potentially a very important one, and damnit if I don’t love Pixar.

* No book more deeply and revealingly explains the spasm of madness through which the United States has passed in recent years than Moby Dick. For generations, it has been considered a masterpiece of world literature, but now can it be seen as an eerily prophetic allegory about 21st-century America. It is now truly the nation’s epic.

* The Barack Obama of 2018 has been playing video games all his life.

* Everybody loves Silent Star Wars.

* Pharyngula has been having an awful lot of fun with found images lately.

* Has Greenpeace been rating Apple unfairly?

* Will we nationalize the auto companies?

* And the good news: Gabriel García Márquez is still writing after all.

Rereading Cat’s Cradle

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In other words, this novel is not a foursquare, detailed, and plausible construction, and shouldn’t be judged as one. It is a funny and despairing vision of the last judgment done in comic-book style, and Vonnegut’s modesty as an artist combines with his dismay as a man to prevent him from lavishing too much careful portraiture on people not long for a world that’s about to crack up anyway. It arrives like the punch line to one of Vonnegut’s jokes when you realise that the most realistic feature of Cat’s Cradle is the idea of a technology capable of destroying civilisation in a day.

Rereading Cat’s Cradle, in the Guardian.

In a happier world, Cat’s Cradle might remain a period piece, an anthology of 1960s nightmares and fantasies out of place in a new world order of international law, shared prosperity, and spreading peace. How nice it would be to return to this novel (one I first read, as an adolescent, just before the Berlin wall came down), and discover that the old fears had melted away, without any new terrors to take their place. No such luck. Reading it, you want to reject Vonnegut’s pessimism as too easy and comprehensive, like the sour negativity of adolescents – always Vonnegut’s best and most devoted readers – but it’s not evident that the 21st century will grant us very strong grounds on which to do so. Eight years in, even the silly coinages of Bokonon seem to have taken on, for Americans at least, a certain utility and precision:

Duffle, in the Bokononist sense,
is the destiny of thousands upon
thousands of persons when
placed in the hands of a stuppa.
A stuppa is a fogbound child.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 26, 2008 at 4:08 pm