God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut [Book Thoughts]

God Bless You, Mr Rosewater is a short/harsh/bleak look at real human tragedy. But the book feels like a small piece of Vonnegut’s larger puzzle.
-Imran

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God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonneguts

Kurt Vonnegut is purely coincidental and should not be constructed. He fought in World War II and personally experienced the bombing of Dresden. Yikes. Since then he’s become an author and teetered around the science fiction, black humour, and post-modern spaces. It appears to me that he was also madly depressed. We’ll get to that.

God Bless You Mr Rosewater Symbol

Listen: the protagonist of God Bless You, Mr Rosewater happens to be a large sum of money ($87,472,033.61) which belongs to the Rosewater family. Seeing as the Rosewaters don’t like sharing, they’ve created a convoluted legal set-up involving a Foundation and a Company that allows them to pass on their absurd wealth through the generations without having to pay estate tax. The rules are that the latest male heir of the Rosewater family will remain in charge of the Rosewater Foundation (and thus have the money) as long as they remain legally sane.

Enter scumbag lawyer Norman Mushari. Mushari’s great ambition is to have the latest heir of the Rosewater family, Eliot Rosewater, declared insane so that he can pass on the money to the Rosewater’ distant relatives and take a huge cut in legal fees. And well, Eliot isn’t doing his legal team any favours.

God Bless You Mr Rosewater R

“Eliot.”
“Yes?”
“Why have you become an alcoholic and set up shop in Rosewater Count with the dregs of society?”
“I’m going to be an artist.”
“An artist?”
“I’m going to love these discarded Americans, even though they’re useless and unattractive. That is going to be my work of art.”
So he sets up the:

ROSEWATER FOUNDATION
HOW CAN WE HELP  YOU?

In order to love a group of poor, ignorant and cruel people with all his heart. It’s a short novel.

What immediately hit me during my reading was that Vonnegut was most likely madly depressed. Rather than laboriously explain, I paste here one paragraph which pretty much sums it up:

The client who was about to make Eliot’s black telephone ring was a sixty-eight-year-old virgin who, by almost anybody’s standards, was too dumb to live. Her name was Diana Moon Glampers. No one had ever loved her. There was no reason why anyone should. She was ugly, stupid, and boring. On the rare occasions when she had to introduce herself, she always said her full name, and followed that with the mystifying equation that had thrust her into life so pointlessly: “My mother was a Moon. My father was a Glampers.”

Um.

God Bless You Mr Rosewater R

Listen: the prose is direct and mean-spirited. It captures the brutal realities of the extremely poor and how they’re perceived by the rich. And as for the book itself: it depends on your frame of reference as to whether you perceive it as a black comedy or a horrifying look into human tragedy. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both. The novel is good, but is too short and minimalist to feel like a complete work in it’s own right. The references in it to Vonnegut’s other works have me believe that it’s best seen as a small piece of a larger puzzle. Read Vonnegut’s other works first: particularly Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. Poo-tee-weet.

God Bless You, Mr Rosewater is a short/harsh/bleak look at real human tragedy. But the book feels like a small piece of Vonnegut’s larger puzzle.

 

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