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Cat’s Cradle was written by Kurt Vonnegut and published in 1963. Below are various excerpts from the book. All quotes provided below may be cited as Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (United States: Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, January 2006).
- Only Fools Know God
- The First Sentence in The Books of Bokonon
- Founded on Lies
- Made-up Games or Real Ones
- Tipping His Wife
- “I Wonder About Turtles”
- Science Has Now Known Sin
- Breed’s Commencement Address
- The Secret of Life
- Government Perverts Science
- George Minor Moakely: An Unremorseful Murderer
- Too Much Thinking?
- What a Wampeter Is
- What is God? What is Love?
- Busy, Busy, Busy
- Ethical Nihilism
- Punishment in San Lorenzo
- How Kids Act
- The Highest Form of Treason
- Render Unto Caeser No Attention
- Philip Castle Does Not Know What Anarchism Is
- People Seize and Re-seize San Lorenzo
- Expiriment With Communism
- Minton’s Whooping Lie
- You Will Be the Next President
- Burning Questions
- The Hundred Martyrs to Democracy
- Paths to Happiness
- Drug Salesman or Writer
- Better and Better Lies
- A Form of Treason
- The Yin and the Yang Need Each Other
- Stanley on The Books of Bokonon
- The Cosmogony of Bokononism
- Being a Ruler is Against Their Religion
- What Bokononists Say When Meeting a Shy Person
- Don’t Be a Sin-wat
- What Bokononists Consider Sacred
- Science is Magic That Works
- The Last Rites of Bokononism
- A Writers Strike
- Now I Will Destroy the Whole World
- The Purpose of Existence
1 THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED
Jonah (p. 1)
Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John.
2 NICE, NICE, VERY NICE
Only Fools Know God (p. 5)
She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is Doing, [writes Bokonon].
4 A TENTATIVE TANGLING OF TENDRILS
The First Sentence in The Books of Bokonon (p. 5)
All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.
Founded on Lies (pp. 5–6)
Anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either.
5 LETTER FROM A PRE-MED
Made-up Games or Real Ones (p. 11)
Making the cat’s cradle was the closest I ever saw my father come to playing what anybody else would call a game. He had no use at all for tricks and games and rules that other people made up. In a scrapbook my sister Angela used to keep up, there was a clipping from Time magazine where somebody asked Father what games he played for relaxation, and he said, ‘Why should I bother with made-up games when there are so many real ones going on?’
6 BUG FIGHTS
Tipping His Wife (p. 14)
And then, when she cleared off the table, she found a quarter and a dime and three pennies by Father’s cup. He’d tipped her.
“I Wonder About Turtles” (pp. 15–16)
Science Has Now Known Sin (p. 17)
After the thing went off, after it was a sure thing that America could wipe out a city with just one bomb, a scientist turned to Father and said, ‘Science has now known sin.’
7 THE ILLUSTRIOUS HOENIKKERS
8 NEWT’S THING WITH ZINKA
9 VICE-PRESIDENT IN CHARGE OF VOLCANOES
10 SECRET AGENT X-9
Breed’s Commencement Address (p. 24)
The Secret of Life (p. 25)
“What is the secret of life?” I asked.
“I forget,” said Sandra.
“Protein,” the bartender declared. “They found out something about protein.”
“Yeah,” said Sandra, “that’s it.”
12 END OF THE WORLD DELIGHT
Government Perverts Science (p. 26)
Another guy came in, and he said he was quitting his job at the Research Laboratory; said anything a scientist worked on was sure to wind up as a weapon, one way or another. Said he didn’t want to help politicians with their fugging wars anymore.
13 THE JUMPING-OFF PLACE
George Minor Moakely: An Unremorseful Murderer (p. 29)
14 WHEN AUTOMOBILES HAD CUT-GLASS VASES
15 MERRY CHRISTMAS
Too Much Thinking? (p. 33)
She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.
16 BACK TO KINDERGARTEN
Magic! (p. 36)
17 THE GIRL POOL
18 THE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY ON EARTH
19 NO MORE MUD
21 THE MARINES MARCH ON
22 MEMBER OF THE YELLOW PRESS
23 THE LAST BATCH OF BROWNIES
24 WHAT A WAMPETER IS
What a Wampeter Is (p. 52)
Anything can be a wampeter: a tree, a rock, an animal, an idea, a book, a melody, the Holy Grail. Whatever it is, the members of its karass revolve about it in the majestic chaos of a spiritual nebula. The orbits of the members of a karass about their common wampeter are spirituak orbits, naturally. It is souls and not bodies that revolve.
25 THE MAIN THING ABOUT DR. HOENIKKER
26 WHAT GOD IS
What is God? What is Love? (p. 55)
“There was one where he bet I couldn’t tell him anything that was absolutely true. So I told him, ‘God is love.’ ”
“And what did he say?”
“He said, ‘What is God? What is love?’ ”
27 MEM FROM MARS
29 GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
30 ONLY SLEEPING
31 ANOTHER BREED
32 DYNAMITE MONEY
Busy, Busy, Busy (pp. 65–66)
Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.
33 AN UNGRATEFUL MAN
35 HOBBY SHOP
Ethical Nihilism (pp. 77–79)
During my trip to Ilium and to points beyond—a two-week expedition bridging Christmas—I let a poor poet named Sherman Krebbs have my New York City apartment free. My second wife had left me on the grounds that I was too pessimistic for an optimist to live with.
Krebbs was a bearded man, a platinum blond Jesus with spaniel eyes. He was no close friend of mine. I had met him at a cocktail party where he presentd himself as National Chairman of Poets and Painters for Immediate Nuclear War. He begged for shelter, not necessarily bomb proof, and it happened that I had some.
When I returned to my apartment, still twanging with the puzzling spiritual implications of the unclaimed stone angel in Ilium, I found my apartment wrecked by nihilistic debauch. Krebbs was gone; but, before leaving, he had run up three-hundred-dollars’ worth of long-distance calls, set my couch on ﬁre in ﬁve places, killed my cat and my avocado tree, and torn the door off my medicine cabinet.
He wrote this poem, in what proved to be excrement, on the yellow linoleum ﬂoor of my kitchen:
I have a kitchen.
But it is not a complete kitchen.
I will not be truly gay
Until I have a
There was another message, written in lipstick in feminine hand on the wallpaper over my bed. It said: “No, no, no, said Chicken-licken.”
There was a sign hung around my dead cat’s neck. It said, “Meow.”
I have not seen Krebbs since. Nonetheless, I sense that he was my karass. If he was, he served it as a wrang-wrang. A wrang-wrang, according to Bokonon, is a person who steers people away from a line of speculation by reducing that line, with the example of the wrang-wrang’s own life, to an absurdity.
I might have been vaguely inclined to dismiss the stone angel as meaningless, and to go from there to the meaninglessness of all. But after I saw what Krebbs had done, in particular what he had done to my sweet cat, nihilism was not for me.
Somebody or something did not wish me to be a nihilist. It was Krebb’s mission, whether he knew it or nor, to disenchant me with that philosophy. Well done, Mr. Krebbs, well done.
37 A MODERN MAJOR GENERAL
38 BARRACUDA CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
39 FATA MORGANA
40 HOUSE OF HOPE AND MERCY
41 A KARASS BUILT FOR TWO
42 BICYCLES FOR AFGHANISTAN
Granfalloon (pp. 91–92)
Hazel’s obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a textbook example of a false karass, of a seeming team that was meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done, a textbook example of what Bokonon calls a granfalloon. Other examples of granfalloons are the Cmmunist party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows—and any nation, anytime, anywhere.
43 THE DEMONSTRATOR
Punishment in San Lorenzo (p. 93)
How Kids Act (p. 95)
“Yeah. There was a black velvet curtain in front of it and you had to pull the curtain back to see. And there was a note pinned to the curtain that said children weren’t supposed to look.”
“But kids did,” said Crosby. “There were kids down there, and they all looked.”
“A sign like that is kist catnip to kids,” said Hazel.
“How did the kids react when they say the person [wax ﬁgure] on the hook?” I asked.
“Oh,” said Hazel, “they reacted just about the way grownups did. They just looked at it and didn’t say anything, just moved on to see what the next thing was.”
44 COMMUNIST SYMPATHIZERS
45 WHY AMERICANS ARE HATED
The Highest Form of Treason (p. 98)
“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 the penalty. But the loyalty board didn’t pay any attention to that. All they knew was that Claire and I both felt that Americans were unloved.”
46 THE BOKONONIST METHOD FOR HANDLING CAESAR
Render Unto Caeser No Attention (p. 101)
Bokonon’s paraphrase was this:
“Pay no attention to Caeser. Caeser doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.”
47 DYNAMIC TENSION
48 JUST LIKE SAINT AUGUSTINE
49 A FISH PITCHED UP BY AN ANGRY SEA
50 A NICE MIDGET
51 O.K., MOM
52 NO PAIN
53 THE PRESIDENT OF FABRI-TEK
54 COMMUNISTS, NAZIS, ROYALISTS, PARACHUTISTS, AND DRAFT DODGERS
55 NEVER INDEX YOUR OWN BOOK
56 A SELF-SUPPORTING SQUIRREL CAGE
Philip Castle Does Not Know What Anarchism Is (p. 124)
57 THE QUEASY DREAM
People Seize and Re-seize San Lorenzo (pp. 125–126)
58 TRANNY WITH A DIFFERENCE
59 FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS
60 AN UNDERPRIVILEGED NATION
Expiriment With Communism (p. 133)
“During the idealistic phase of McCabe’s and Johnson’s reorganization of San Lorenzo, it was announced that the country’s total income would be divided among all adult persons in equal shares,” wrote Philip Castle. “The ﬁrst and only time this was tried, each share came to between six and seven dollars.”
61 WHAT A CORPORAL WAS WORTH
62 WHY HAZEL WASN’T SCARED
63 REVERENT AND FREE
64 PEACE AND PLENTY
65 A GOOD TIME TO COME TO SAN LORENZO
Minton’s Whooping Lie (p. 143)
66 THE STRONGEST THING THERE IS
You Will Be the Next President (p. 146)
“You,” he said to Frank hoarsely, “you—Franklin Hoenikker—you will be the next President of San Lorenzo. Science—you have science. Science is the strongest thing there is.[”]
Burning Questions (p. 147)
The Crosbys and I were both upset. Our consternation was expressed in questions we had to have answered at once. The Crosbys wanted to know who Bokonon was. They were scandalized by the idea that anyone should be opposed to “Papa” Monzano.
Irrelevantly, I found that I had to know at once who the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy had been.
68 HOON-YERA MORA-TOORZ
The Hundred Martyrs to Democracy (p. 149)
I asked the driver who the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy had been. The boulevard we were going down, I saw, was called the Boulevard of the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy.
The driver told me that San Lorenzo had declared war on Germany and Japan an hour after Pearl Harbor was attacked.
San Lorenzo conscripted a hundred men to ﬁght on the side of democracy. These hundred men were put on a ship bound for the United States, where they were to be armed and trained.
The ship was sunk by a German submarine right outside of Bolivar harbor.
69 A BIG MOSAIC
Photography (p. 151)
“Do you want to take my photograph, too?”
“Do you mind?”
“I think, therefore I am, therefore I am photographable.”
Paths to Happiness (p. 152)
“I’m also rich.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“If you want and expert opinion, money doesn’t necessarily make people happy.”
“Thanks for the information. You’ve just saved me a lot of trouble. I was just about to make some money.”
“I wrote a book once.”
70 TUTORED BY BOKONON
Drug Salesman or Writer (p. 153)
“I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.”
“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?”
71 THE HAPPINESS OF BEING AN AMERICAN
72 THE PISSANT HILTON
73 BLACK DEATH
74 CAT’S CRADLE
75 GIVE MY REGARDS TO ALBERT SCWEITZER
76 JULIAN CASTLE AGREES WITH NEWT THAT EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS
77 ASPERIN AND BOKO-MARU
78 RING OF STEEL
Better and Better Lies (p. 172)
Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies.
A Form of Treason (p. 173)
So I said good-bye to government,
And I gave my reason:
That a really good religion
Is a form of treason.
The Yin and the Yang Need Each Other (p. 175)
“McCabe was always sane enough to realize that without the holy man to war against, he himself would become meaningless. ‘Papa’ Monzano understands that, too.”
79 WHY McCABE’S SOUL GREW COARSE
80 THE WATERFALL STRAINERS
81 A WHITE BRIDE FOR THE SON OF A PULLMAN PORTER
83 DR. SCHLICHTER VON KOENIGSWALD APPROACHES THE BREAK-EVEN POINT
85 A PACK OF FOMA
Stanley on The Books of Bokonon (p. 190)
Stanley pretended not to know what I was talking about. And then he grumbled that The Books of Bokonon were ﬁlth. And then he insisted that anyone who read them should die on the hook. And then he brought be a copy from Frank’s bedside table.
The Cosmogony of Bokononism (pp. 190–191)
86 TWO LITTLE JOGS
87 THE CUT OF MY JIB
88 WHY FRANK COULDN’T BE PRESIDENT
Being a Ruler is Against Their Religion (p. 198)
Frank was mystiﬁed. “Why would anybody shoot you?”
“So he could get to be President.”
Frank shook his head. “Nobody in San Lorenzo wants to be President,” he promised me. “It’s against their religion.”
90 ONLY ONE CATCH
What Bokononists Say When Meeting a Shy Person (p. 203)
It is not possible to make a mistake.
92 ON THE POET’S CELEBRATION OF HIS FIRST BOKO-MARU
93 HOW I ALMOST LOST MY MONA
Don’t Be a Sin-wat (p. 208)
“As your husband, I’ll want all your love for myself.”
She stared at me with widening eyes. “A sin-wat!”
“What was that?”
“I sin-wat!” she cried. “A man who wants all of somebody’s love. That’s very bad.”
94 THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN
What Bokononists Consider Sacred (p. 211)
“What is sacred to Bokononists?” I asked after a while.
“Not even God, as near as I can tell.”
“Just one thing.”
I made some guesses. “The ocean? The sun?”
“Man,” said Frank. “That’s all. Just man.”
95 I SEE THE HOOK
96 BELL, BOOK, AND CHICKEN IN A HATBOX
97 THE STINKING CHRISTIAN
Science is Magic That Works (p. 218)
“Science is magic that works.”
98 LAST RITES
99 DYOT MEET MAT
The Last Rites of Bokononism (pp. 220–222)
100 DOWN THE OUBLIETTE GOES FRANK
101 LIKE MY PREDECESSORS, I OUTLAW BOKONON
102 ENEMIES OF FREEDOM
103 A MEDICAL OPINION ON THE EFFECTS OF A WRITERS’ STRIKE
A Writers Strike (p. 231)
“I’m thinking of calling a general strike of all writers until mankind ﬁnally comes to its senses. Would you support it?”
“No, I don’t think my conscience would let me support a strike like that. When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at top speed.”
106 WHAT BOKONONISTS SAY WHEN THEY COMMIT SUICIDE
Now I Will Destroy the Whole World (p. 238)
“Pain, ice, Mona—everything. And then ‘Papa’ said, ’Now I will destroy the whole world.’ ”
“What did he mean by that?”
“It’s what Bokononists always say when they are about to commit suicide.”
107 FEAST YOUR EYES!
108 FRANK TELLS US WHAT TO DO
109 FRANK DEFENDS HIMSELF
110 THE FOURTEENTH BOOK
111 TIME OUT
112 NEWT’S MOTHER’S RETICULE
History (p. 252)
“History!” writes Bokonon. “Read it and weep!”
114 WHEN I FELT THE BULLET ENTER MY HEART
115 AS IT HAPPENED
116 THE GRAND AH-WHOOM
118 THE IRON MAIDEN AND THE OUBLIETTE
The Purpose of Existence (p. 265)
In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.
And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely.
“Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.
“Certainly,” said man.
“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God. And He went away.
119 MONA THANKS ME
120 TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
121 I AM SLOW TO ANSWER
122 THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
123 OF MICE AND MEN
124 FRANK’S ANT FARM
125 THE TASMANIANS
126 SOFT PIPES, PLAY ON
127 THE END
Copyright © 1963 by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
All rights reserved