"Cat’s Cradle" - Kurt Vonnegut
by Michael Scheurmann
Many people may not consider “Cat’s Cradle” a travel book, but I am ready to make its case. A travel book has the location as main protagonist. So it is here: the fictitious Caribbean island nation of San Lorenzo shares many recognizable traits with “real” countries of the region: hastily cobbled-together national identity, persistence of native rituals under a veneer of westernization, and, above all, an all-pervading fatalism reflecting the local people’s insight into the ephemeral quality of truth, life and the universe. Vonnegut’s description of San Lorenzo was so vivid that the University of Chicago awarded him a PhD in anthropology for the novel, having rejected his original thesis a few years before.
How you interpret the quote depends on your definition of “peculiar suggestion”. I have always understood “peculiar” as anything I would never have thought of myself and “suggestion” to include recommendations and invitations from co-travelers, newspapers or sponsors.
In this form, the quote is an encouragement to prefer the untried over the familiar. Let’s be adventurous! If we are not interested in breaking out of our comfort zones, why travel at all? For the familiar, we might as well stay home and spare us the inconvenience.