By Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Delacorte Press @ 1965; 217 pages.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater promises to be a satirical science fiction story about money. It’s ok; I wouldn’t race out to buy it or read it. Eliot Rosewater (our protagonist), heir to the vast Rosewater fortune, a man with total love for humanity and thus teetering on the verge of raving lunacy, has destroyed the word “love.”
One of the characters complains: “Eliot did to the word love what the Russians did to the word democracy. If Eliot is going to love everybody, no matter what they do, then those of us who love particular people for particular reasons had better find ourselves a new word.”
Kurt Vonnegut is very odd. Of course I knew this. I have read several of his books. Here is an excerpt I found interesting. Apparently, when people want to do something nice for Eliot Rosewater, they come by his office to help him get rid of flies. Vonnegut describes two methods for doing this. Here is the second:
The tumbler-and-soapsuds technique worked like this: A woman would look for a fly hanging upside down. She would then bring her tumbler of suds directly under the fly very slowly, taking advantage of the fact that an upside-down-fly, when approached by danger, will drop straight down two inches or more, in a free fall, before using his wings. Ideally, the fly would not sense danger until it [the tumbler] was directly below him, and he would obligingly drop into the suds to be caught, to work his way down through the bubbles, to drown.
Of this technique Eliot often said: ‘Nobody believes it until she tries it. Once she finds out it works, she never wants to quit.’”
But about money:
It’s still possible for an American to make a fortune on his own.
Sure—provided somebody tells him when he’s young enough that there is a Money River, that there’s nothing fair about it, that he had damn well better forget about hard work and the merit system and honesty and all that crap, and get to where the river is.
[Of course, this is not my view. I am merely relating the bitterness of Vonnegut, who himself worked hard and did pretty darn well.]
For me the story finally picks up with the tale of Fred Rosewater, the long lost relative of the Rosewater clan, who lives in poverty, not knowing that he is the heir to millions—the American dream.
He learns of this, just as he is about to be caught in the embarrassing act of killing himself.
I wasn’t sure what Pearls Before Swine meant, but after researching the phrase, it seems to have particular significance. Food for thought anyway.
Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
3 thoughts on “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine”
Read a review of a William Burroughs book by Kingsley Amis, the old curmedgeon, which said Burroughs was a bore, except for the “good bits.” That could be said about Vonnegut also, before he really hit his stride in the mid-1980s. This book is definitely of his groping around era. Parts of it make me laugh…parts of it make me think, “What the …?” Any writer’s formative process needs to be experienced also, so I guess fans of the Von need read it…but not for an introduction to the author, that’s for sure. Good review.
Thank you! I think Vonnegut had some great ideas in this one. I almost wish he had given this book another shot later in life.
That might have helped the good bits connect to become a good a whole as Timequake, Galapagos, Jailbird, or some of his creative non-fiction.