I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan. I honestly believe that he was the greatest American satirist. I think that his zany, on-the-nose, lack of subtleness was perfect for what he was trying to say with each of his books. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater has to be among his most blunt works, and I loved every last page of, which is sad, because there were only 190 of them.
Within 20 pages, I realized this was not a typical book of Vonnegut’s. No spaceships. No Aliens. A relatively easy to follow timeline. By page 50, I realized that the reason he may have decided to forego his usual abstract motifs was due to the message at the core of the story. I get the sense that he felt while writing this, that there was little time to bullshit about the message on this one: American greed.
Eliot Rosewater, the central character, was born into wealth. More importantly, he is a veteran of the Second World War, and due to the horrors he was forced to witness, and in some cases, take part in, he becomes a raging alcoholic, but more interestingly, becomes an outrageously generous man. He establishes the Rosewater Foundation in Rosewater Indiana, which essentially consists of an office that he sits in for hours next to a telephone. If any of the needy citizens of Rosewater need help, wether it be financial, emotional, or otherwise, they know that Eliot Rosewater is a simple phone call away. (He also has a separate line to take phone calls for the Rosewater volunteer firefighters.) Essentially, Eliot has set up a socialist experiment in the heart of capitalist America.
With this premise, Vonnegut goes on a satirical rampage, creating an exposé of capitalism’s pitfalls. The entire book hinges on Eliot’s senator father, and his pampered ex-wife trying to convince him that he iss mentally unstable and to that he needs to seek help in order to retain his family inheritance…because he is too generous toward people that serve absolutely no use.
Filled with the laugh out loud irony that fans of Slaughterhouse Five are certainly familiar with, this book is a fast fun read. Also included are some classic Vonnegutisms like: Samaritrophia: Hysterical indifference to the troubles of those less fortunate than oneself. Kurt Vonnegut is probably rolling over in his grave over rampant Samaritrophia in our country nearly 50 years after the publication of God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. Either that, or he is laughing his ass off to keep from crying.