Thursday, July 12, 2012

On "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" by Kurt Vonnegut ****

It's been over a decade since I read a Vonnegut book. After reading this novel, I wonder why. I know not all his works come to this level, but he has a wonderful voice that I didn't realize I missed as much as I did. This was a fun read. I'd been told it would be, by an acquaintance, twenty years ago--it was his favorite Vonnegut. Well, I finally got to it. It isn't my favorite, but it would currently rank third of the six I've read. I will probably read significantly more sometime in the coming years.

Rosewater is the name of the family at center of this book--or really, the name of the family who owns the estate at the center of this book, for the book is about money. More specifically, it's about one man's attempt to bilk the family out of its long-time riches. But the focus isn't really on the man at the center of this attempt. He stands in the background as the Rosewaters do their thing.

There are three: Senator Rosewater, Fred Rosewater, and Eliot Rosewater. The senator is your successful politician with an inherited fortune. Fred is the distant relative who has lost out on his "rightful" inheritance and who makes his day-to-day living selling life insurance, his big contribution to the human race. Eliot is a drunk with a big, giant heart, who runs a foundation that essentially gives away the Rosewater fortune, as it can afford to. Eliot is, so the lawyer trying to get ahold of the family fortune claims, insane. And it is the attempt to prove this insanity that makes up the plot of the work. Of course, the seeming insanity is that Eliot has a heart.

Or does he? He has riches and a willingness to listen to people's troubles, but he's also not intimately connected to those he helps. A heart? Maybe. But one gets the sense that he's lost all hope, and he's using his fortune to give to others who have also lost all hope--not enough that they will have hope, but rather just enough so that, like medics that serve of M&Ms as medication to Vietnam soldiers on their deathbeds, they have just a little sweetness to go with all the bitterness that is life.

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