“That’s one of the troubles with this country,” said the Senator. “The Madison Avenue people have made us all more alarmed about our own armpits than about Russia, China and Cuba combined.”—excerpt from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
You got it, Vonnegut! If we would just give up deodorant and accept that our pits stink, we’d rule the world!
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater gets a lower grade than any of the other Vonnegut novels so far because I didn’t like the main character very much, there was an overwhelming sense of futility, and the ending felt rushed.
Eliot (Mr. Rosewater) is a mentally-imbalanced drunk who tries to do good by spending all of his time and much of his enormous wealth on the “useless” people of society. I personally don’t care for the idea that anyone is useless, but some of the characters in this novel certainly are. No one has to be useless, though, and I think that’s part of what bugs me about this book—Eliot helps the useless people without trying to better them. I realize that most attempts at bettering people are motivated by self-righteousness and involve pushing Jesus like a drug. It is a selfless thing to help someone without trying to change them, but it is often futile. As I look back on the events of the novel, the whole thing was futile. No one ever seemed to get what they really wanted or needed.
The book has great bits involving Kilgore Trout, the best fictional writer of all time, so Vonnegut fans will want to give it a go, but those who have never read Vonnegut before should not start with this one.
The next book in the Vonnegut Marathon is my favorite, Slaughterhouse-Five. I can’t find my copy so I’ll have to borrow one from the library. I’ll probably start it in a week or two.