This week, our guest blogger is author Aly Sidgwick, telling us about her choice for this book club theme.
Aly’s debut novel Lullaby Girl came out on June 4th with Black & White Publishing, and is the story of a mysterious woman who is found washed up at a loch and taken into psychiatric care in the Highlands. She doesn’t speak, and has no memory of who she is or what happened, but what she does do is sing a Danish lullaby. It’s a real mystery that keeps you wondering.
But as for the book that makes her laugh…
Choice: Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut.
When I consider the funniest author I’ve read, Kurt Vonnegut springs instantly to mind. However, it’s hard for me to pin down one particular novel. The scenes which made me splutter out loud (and my favourite character, a fictional sci-fi author named Kilgore Trout) span several different titles.
The humour in Vonnegut’s work goes hand in hand with tragedy, and I think that’s why it affects me so deeply. He highlights the miseries of human life, but also the ironic sense of humour behind them. There’s the radioactive mantelpiece, for instance, or the abstract expressionist painter whose works fall apart and become worthless due to the brand of paint he’d used.
My favourite Vonnegut characters are ’freaks’ and failures, and the funniest moments are rooted in these people’s idiosyncrasies. One of my favourite scenes is where an eccentric father scares off his son’s nervous date by comparing her to Helen of Troy. Then there’s Kilgore Trout taking off his shoes and socks to paddle through a lake, and emerging to find his legs encased in molten plastic.
If I had to pick one particular Vonnegut novel, it would be Cat’s Cradle. It’s such a simple idea- man’s instinct for destruction vs. man’s instinct for survival. There are so many small events or turns of phrase that tickle me (particularly the eccentricities of Felix Hoenikker, inventor of the substance which causes the end of the world), but the book’s big concepts are also hilariously absurd. The fictional religion, Bokononism, is an essay in itself! Basically, Bokononism embraces the meaninglessness of life, whilst prizing human fellowship above all else. Even the religion’s terminology makes me smile (’Granfalloon’, ’wampeter’, ’foma’…).
For fans of: Matt Haig’s The Humans.
Describe in three words: Ironic, sad, ridiculous.
I find great solace and comfort in Vonnegut’s work. As a whole, it’s an acknowledgement that human life is fucked up and illogical but still worth it. There’s beauty and compassion amongst the horror, and we just have to do the best we can.