God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut (1965)
Updated: Mar 16
A young millionaire, Eliot Rosewater, is deemed insane when he gives up on his easy life of lounging around and collecting passive income in order to open a foundation to help the poor.
In this book Vonnegut goes buck wild with his social satire. He seems to have disdain for nearly everyone involved. The rich are described as lazy psychopaths, and the poor are described as stupid, ugly and pathetic. The only character Vonnegut seems to have any respect for here is the hearty American workingman stereotype (this time in the role of a fisherman) but even he is characterized as crude, somewhat vicious, and inevitably doomed in the ever-more-automated future.
Also, this a novel about wealth and class in the US with narry a mention of race to be found, except, towards the very end of the novel, where an old man sitting on a log sings: “The darkies work all day while the white folks stay inside and play.” Which feels like Vonnegut writing a whole book and then going back at the end and saying “Oh yeah, and racism too I guess.”
As far as socialist manifestos go this one is pretty good, but many of the characters feel more like cartoonish caricatures than real people, and some of the more interesting threads seem to pop up for a few pages or so and then disappear forever.
Definitely worth reading, but we’re talking B-tier Vonnegut.