Why I Really Like Kurt Vonnegut… or … Selected excerpts from “Cat’s Cradle”

What’s news with horror writer Paul D. Dail?

I finished my next novel!

Ahem… Okay, so it was just the first draft. And I actually finished it closer to two months ago (whew. Where did last month go?). But hey! The first draft is done!

And I’m superstitious and paranoid enough that, unless we’re talking over a beer, that’s all I can give up at this point. However, I will say that I’m feeling great about the potential, even in its first draft state. And I believe enough distance has passed that I’m ready to start editing. Wish me luck.

I’ve also been editing and submitting some shorts to pro markets. Really wanting to get moving toward my HWA (Horror Writers Association) membership. And hey, a little money would be okay too.

vonnegutBut now, without further ado…

I know Kurt Vonnegut is not for everyone.

Putting aside that it’s most popular these days to hate Orson Scott Card for his beliefs, not that long ago Vonnegut was criticized for being misogynistic throughout his writing career and apparently making some crazy comments toward the end of his life.

Personally, I think we should all get some leeway for craziness once we hit 70 years old. And even more so at 80. And in doing a little research, I came across this short article about a letter Vonnegut wrote to a widow and mother of three.


But putting all that aside, it’s just his very unique writing style that readers either love or hate.

I’m not going to go into this too deeply because I really just wanted to put up some cool quotes from Cat’s Cradle, but I will say this much: It’s not my favorite Vonnegut book. Slaughterhouse Five is. However, the first book of his I read was Breakfast of Champions, which made it into my top 10 most influential (on me at least) list. So if you haven’t read any Vonnegut, I’m not sure if Cat’s Cradle would be where you should start, but I enjoyed it.

His plots can be wandering, but his characters are amazing and real, even those dressed in hyperbole (as a writer, I was immediately taken with Kilgore Trout). He may hide his emotions in some places, but he knows when to not pull his punches. And you can almost see him grinning as he socks you in the nose. I believe that is why I enjoy most of these excerpts.

Catscradle ImageFrom Amazon.com: Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness. An apocalyptic tale of this planet’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer [Bokonon], and a vision of the future that is at once blackly fatalistic and hilariously funny.

From the book:

from Chapter 45

Claire Minton’s letter to the Times was published during the worst of the era of Senator McCarthy, and her husband was fired twelve hours after the letter was printed.

“What was so awful about the letter?” I asked.

“The highest possible form of treason,” said Minton, “is to say that Americans aren’t loved wherever they go, whatever they do. Claire tried to make the point that American foreign policy should recognize hate rather than imagine love.”

“I guess Americans are hated a lot of places.”

People are hated a lot of places. Claire pointed out in her letter that Americans, in being hated, were simply paying the normal penalty for being people, and that they were foolish to think they should somehow be exempted from that penalty.”

from Chapter 47

As I learned when I read on, briefly, Bokonon knew exactly who Charles Atlas was. Bokonon was, in fact, an alumnus of his muscle-building school.

It was the belief of Charles Atlas that muscles could be built without bar bells or spring exercisers, could be built by simply pitting one set of muscles against another.

It was the belief of Bokonon that good societies could be built only by pitting good against evil, and by keeping the tension between the two high at all times.

from Chapter 76

“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.”

from Chapter 88

[Frank] faced the sheet of water that curtained the cave. “Maturity, the way I understand it,” he told me, “is knowing what your limitations are.”

He wasn’t far from Bokonon in defining maturity. “Maturity,” Bokonon tells us, “is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.”

And as a writer, my favorite. From Chapter 70

“You, I take it,” I said to the mosaicist, “are Philip Castle, son of Julian Castle.”

“That happiness is mine.”

“I’m here to see your father.”

“Are you an aspirin salesman?”


“Too bad. Father’s low on aspirin. How about miracle drugs? Father enjoys pulling off a miracle now and then.”

“I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.”

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”

What do I want from you?

What do you think? Love Vonnegut? Hate him?

Wanna chime in on the whole Orson Scott Card hubbub?

Finally, I know that my blog has been very quiet as of late, but please subscribe to receive posts via email or RSS feed (on the right hand column) so you won’t miss anything when I do get the opportunity to say something. NO SPAM, I promise.

Categories Paul's thoughts, ReviewsTags , , , , , ,

8 thoughts on “Why I Really Like Kurt Vonnegut… or … Selected excerpts from “Cat’s Cradle”

  1. Congrats on your first draft, Paul!

    1. Thanks, Michelle. Hope things are going well with your writing–and everything else, of course–as well.

  2. Love Vonnegut. I saw him at a reading in Chicago a few years before he died. It was like standing next to a caricature of himself. Brilliant man. Cat’s Cradle is my favorite of his.

    1. Glen, that’s awesome. He was definitely an interesting guy. Really enjoyed Cat’s Cradle, but I think I gotta go with Slaughterhouse Five.

      Congrats again on your recent news. Any news on starting to edit for that publisher yet?

      1. No news yet on the editing position. Turns out the staff side of publishing is just about as slow as the submitting side of things. I feel good about it and have received some good praise so far.

  3. Paaauuuuullll! Good to see you back. You’ve been missed. Congrats on finishing that first draft. Half the battle is won!

    1. Thanks, Hunter. Great to hear from you. Sorry I’ve been so absent (here mostly to my own detriment). I feel like I’ve missed all kinds of news with my writing amigos. Hoping things are going well. Assuming for a guy like yourself, they are.

      1. Things are moving along like a freight train with a dead conductor. Of course, in my world, that’s a good thing!

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