This book was put on my list last year when, during a miserably depressed weekend, I watched the entire first season of Dead Like Me. I loved this show about an ungrateful teen who dies and inadvertently joins a rag-tag team of Grim Reapers. In it, a copy of Cat’s Cradle gets tossed around. So, I thought this book would be about death, but it is actually about our relationships to each other and reality, and the innate confusion of it all, which gives me new awe for both the show and this book.
Vonnegut created a vocabulary to explain the tenets of Bokononism with goofy sounding words. He also created a weird, quite incomprehensible accent for his islanders. This makes me wonder if his definitions are mangled island pronunciations of other words. Is granfoolan actually “grand fools?” It may take years for me to figure this out.
Kurt Vonnegut died just this last spring. From his obituaries, he sounded like a sad, complicated man. I think I would have liked him a great deal. I did very much enjoy this wry Dr. Strangelovian, aloofly Zelazny-esque tale of a reporter whose fate pushes him toward becoming the husband of the woman of his dreams, the president of the an inconsequential island kingdom, and destroyer of the world in the space of an afternoon.
In my salute to Bokononism – sadly, I seem unable to pronounce the name of my new religion – I will mention here that I got a great rejection slip from Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Magazine. It read: “Dear Nye, Thanks for letting me see “Chess’s Game.” The idea is interesting and the story is nicely done, but I’m afraid it was too rushed, and a bit too predictable to work for me. Please let me see your next one when you have it. Sincerely, Sheila Williams.”
From this story and my new faith I have learned two things. Nothing is really off-topic in a story, as long as it weaves the story toward its inevitable end. (So too our lives). Also, Vonnegut’s take on writing was “Don’t waste your reader’s time,” so I will amend that lesson to say “Nothing is off-topic as long as it doesn’t waste your reader’s time.” Lastly, I need to learn how not to rush a story (well, that last part is from my rejection slip). I’ll work on it.