book-reviews

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

by Kurt Vonnegut

Rating: ★★★

This was... close to what I've liked about Vonnegut in the past, but not quite there. The choice of topic didn't help (why satirise without even suggesting an alternative?), and I think as an example of his style this would actually be quite good, it's just not being applied to something that inherently interesting. One thing which I don't think Vonnegut necessarily intended was that several threads of the novel could be tied together by a modern reader to suggest a support for universal basic income -- although, as he notes, being useless might be a worse fate than being poor.

There are plenty of good, highly-quotable lines, however (but I won't), and a strange sort of drifting narrative voice that slips naturally through and across a cast of players and actually works surprisingly well. Some of the satirical scenes are very good, but most are just okay. A lot of the content seems to suggest that this is a sort of therapeutic novel for Vonnegut, writing about a young man recovering from World War II in the same book as he writes about inequality and the ineffectuality of charity. What conclusion he came to himself I'm not sure -- the story seems cynical all around, and it's hard to read Eliot's final actions as more than a product of the madness that had governed him.