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Second only to Slaughterhouse-Five of Vonnegut's canon in its prominence and influence, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965) presents Eliot Rosewater, an itinerant, semi-crazed millionaire wandering the country in search of heritage and philanthropic outcome, introducing the science fiction writer Kilgore Trout to the world and Vonnegut to the collegiate audience which would soon make him a cult writer.
Trout, modeled according to Vonnegut on the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (with whom Vonnegut had an occasional relationship) is a desperate, impoverished but visionary hack writer who functions for Eliot Rosewater as both conscience and horrid example. Rosewater, seeking to put his inheritance to some meaningful use (his father was an entrepreneur), tries to do good within the context of almost illimitable cynicism and corruption.
It is in this novel that Rosewater wanders into a science fiction conference--an actual annual event in Milford, Pennsylvania--and at the motel delivers his famous monologue evoked by science fiction writers and critics for almost half a century: "None of you can write for sour apples... but you're the only people trying to come to terms with the really terrific things which are happening today." Money does not drive Mr. Rosewater (or the corrupt lawyer who tries to shape the Rosewater fortune) so much as outrage at the human condition.
The novel was adapted for a 1979 Alan Menken musical.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.
Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.
Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.
ABOUT THE SERIES
Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut's World War II POW experience) and Cat's Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut's work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut's work as well as newcomers."
“[Vonnegut] at his wildest best.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A brilliantly funny satire on almost everything.”—Conrad Aiken
“[Vonnegut was] our finest black humorist. . . . We laugh in self-defense.”—The Atlantic Monthly
From the Inside Flap
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is a comic masterpice. Eliot Rosewater, drunk, volunteer fireman, and president of the fabulously rich Rosewater foundation, is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature... with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout. The result is Vonnegut's funniest satire, an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh we are all heir to.
Eliot Rosewater was the scion of an extremely wealthy family- his grandfather had even married a Rockefeller. Eliot stood to inherit control of the vast family fortune through the Rosewater Foundation (a legal entity constructed to shield that fortune from taxation.) But then Eliot went off to WW2 to become a highly decorated Captain of combat infantry. He served with men from all walks of life. Oh yes, he also accidentally bayoneted a 14-year old non-combatant, and afterwards tried to throw himself under a truck. After this he was never the same, much to his rich and powerful family's distress. While he did come back to graduate from Harvard Law and assume control of the foundation, he started behaving...irrationally. He started to actually use the money to HELP people! He also started drinking, wandering, and visiting volunteer firehouses- among other eccentricities.
Eventually, he ended up in Rosewater, Indiana- a depressed backwater that his family had long ago used up and abandoned to found the beginnings of their fortune. He found the people there to be without pride, without hope, without work. So he opened up an office over the liquor store in order to help anyone who needed his help. The sign on the door said simply, "Rosewater Foundation: How Can We Help You?" So Eliot Rosewater, philanthropist, poet, volunteer fireman, Harvard graduate, and drunk proceeded to help any and all that came to him for help.
Needless to say his family could not allow such insanity to continue. Why even Eliot's psychoanalyst came to the conclusion that Eliot was a pervert. The nature of his perversion being the fact that he had channeled all his psychic energy into bringing Utopia to earth for all those in need. What could be more abnormal in modern, capitalist society?
This is my absolute all time favorite Vonnegut novel- and I have read them all.
Oh yes, it also offers one of the best descriptions of the absurdity and injustice of the class system in the U.S. As one of the characters asks, who does run this crazy country? These cr**ps sure don't.Read more ›
There was something in Vonnegut's first rush of books that is lacking in his later novels. Although I enjoy his later books and for the life of me I can't say what this mystery quality is, whatever it is it tends to elevate even his minor books into affairs that are far more memorable than they tend to be. Maybe because the themes and images he's using here were new to him and he was still comparitively young . . . I don't know. It's not for me to say. This novel has a simple premise and a simple plot and moves unsurprisingly from point A to point B and yet I still have an incredibly enjoyable experience reading it, even though I finished it basically on my lunch break over the course of maybe an hour and a half. The premise then is that Eliot Rosewater has a lot of love to give to the world and spends most of his time doing very nice things for people who are almost pathetic enough to not deserve it, simply because he was born rich and feels he has a lot to give to the world. A lawyer, meanwhile wishes to prove that he is insane and has it in him to make quite the case. The book basically waffles back and forth between the lives of the various people Eliot helps, the comically depressing lives of some of these people, a little Rosewater family history and the lawyer's attempt to gather information on Eliot's apparent insanity. All of these pieces don't cohere into the great whole that his absolute best books (like Slaughterhouse-Five) do, but the pieces themselves are great fun and Vonnegut's humanity has never been as apparent here. It doesn't have the grim central event like the bombing of Dresden to put everything in context but somehow he manages to make the book moving and hilarious at the same time. The plot of course is slight and it's a fairly direct book, though the ending is about as abrupt as can be (and is mentioned in a later Vonnegut book I think, fortunately I forgot about it). This won't ever be regarded as one of his classics but even a minor work by an author working at his peak is worth another look and while the rewards here may not be as grand, they're simple and pleasant in their own small way.Read more ›
Just as most of Vonnegut's novels follow a single character through a series of semi-plausible episodes, so does 'God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater'. However, unlike the others, this story does not rely on science fiction. Rather, it focuses on one man's struggle to affirm his sense of self against great odds. Seems like an appropriate theme in a society increasingly concerned with style and ignorant of substance.
Now that I have been writing book reviews on almost everything I read, I feel compelled to write at least a few words on this incredible novel of Kurt Vonnegut's - of which thousands of reviews have been written already.
I kept having to check the publishing information to make sure that it was written 46 years ago and not 46 minutes ago. Some of the concepts are so prescient as to seem almost spooky. (Or perhaps that means they are timeless...but caught up in today's crazy political spectrum, I am going with the prophetic angle.)
"Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up..." Can anyone say Wisconsin in 2011?
And, "An even more instructive motto, in the light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters, might be: Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all."
I tore through this book, amazed not only by Vonnegut's amazing social commentary, but also by the small pauses of quiet beauty he describes, scenes of a country that was and might not be much longer. "That's such an American sound, you know? School out and the flag down? Such a sad American sound. You should hear it sometime when the sun's gone down, and a light evening wind comes up, and it's suppertime all over the world." So descriptive...I can see and feel the scene exactly.
I must thank my aunt again for what turned out to be one of my best birthday presents...a book that seems one written in the past but most applicable for our tenuous present. If only we had an Eliot Rosewater to save us, to realize the unjust reality he describes that so many Americans now live in.
"...fright about not getting enough to eat, about not being able to pay the doctor, about not being able to give your family nice clothes, a safe, cheerful, comfortable place to live, a decent education, and a few good times? You mean shame about not knowing where the Money River is?"
"The Money River, where the wealth of the nation flows. We were born on the banks of it - and so were most of the mediocre people we grew up with, went to private schools with, sailed and played tennis with. We can slurp from that mighty river to our hearts' content."
Because even in a land where there is the theoretical chance that a person can become "self made", what matters now more than ever, is how close one was born to that magical Money River.Read more ›
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).