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Book: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

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I started reading this book b/c I couldn't stand other book I had chosen to read (Everything is Illuminated), and I'm glad I made the switch. It's not as good as Cat's Cradle, and despite similar background elements (Kilgore Trout, poo-tee-weet, Tralfamadore), it's not nearly as good as Slaughterhouse Five, but it was still an interesting read. Vonnegut juxtaposes rich and poor, and questions who is less deserving of their fortunes, and mocks the hypocrisy of the rich-born criticizing welfare. There's also plenty of dark humor, and bathroom wall humor that kept me laughing to myself through out. Thematically, this book goes well with a book like You Shall Know Our Velocity, so if you haven't had your fill of charity satire, you can read both.

WARNING: everything from here on is a spoiler, and isn't much use to anyone who hasn't read the book, and it's not much use even if you have.

p. 9

     "In every big transaction," said Leech, "there is a magic moment
during which a man has surrendered a treasure, and during which the
man who is due to receive it has not yet done so.  An alert lawyer
will make that moment his own, possessing the treasure for a magic
second, taking a little of it, passing it on.  If the man who is to
receive the treasure is unused to wealth, has an inferiority complex
and shapeless feelings of guilt, as most people do, the lawyer can
often take as much as half the bundle, and still receive the
recipient's blubbering thanks."

p. 12

     When the United States of America, which was meant to be a Utopia
for all, was less than a century old, Noah Rosewater and a few men
like him demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one
respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the
Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited.  This
oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who loved
expensive things, and by the feeling that the continent was so vast
and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no
thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly
inconvenience anyone.

p. 12-13

"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 commiting crimes against which no laws had been
passed."

p. 22

     ...he was speaking of Earth and the element oxygen.
     "When you think about it boys," he said brokenly, "that's what
holds us together more than anything else, except maybe gravity."

p. 23

You don't have to go to the Planet Tralfamadore in Anti-Matter Galaxy
508 G to find weird creatures with unbelievable powers. Look at the
powers of an Earthling millionaire!

p. 26

     And what methods did Caesar Augustus use to put this disorderly
house in order?  He did what we are so often told we must never, ever
do, what we are told will never, ever work: he wrote morals into law,
and he enforced those unenforceable laws with a police force that was
cruel and unsmiling.  He made it illegal for a Roman to behave like a
pig.  Do you hear me? It became illegal! ... And what do we call the
period that followed this now-unthinkable oppression? Nothing more nor
less, friends and neighbors, than "The Golden Age of Rome."

p. 31

      Maybe I flatter myself when I think that I have things in common
with Hamlet, that I have an important mission, that I'm temporarily
mixed up about how it should be done.  Hamlet had one big edge on me.
His father's host told him exactly what he had to do, while I am
operating without instructions...

p. 34

     "...His whole being is intent on not offending the mighty bus
driver, who looks down fumingly from his blue leather throne.  Wupps!
Too bad! The old-American crawled aboud in fair shape, but now he
can't find his ticket.  He finds it at last.  too late.  too late.
The driver is filled with rage.  He slams the door, starts off with a
savage clashing of gears, blows his horn at an old American woman
crossing the street, rattles the windowpanes.  Hate, hate, hate."

p. 35

     He often carries birth-control devices in his pocket, which many
people find alarming and disgusting.  The same people find it alarming
and disgusting that the boy's father did not use birth-control
devices.

p. 37

...Eliot's predecessors had anticipated Mondrian.

p. 42 

     Samaritrophia, he read, is the suppression of an
overactive conscience by the rest of the mind. "You must all take
instructions from me!" the conscience shrieks, in effect, to all the
other mental processes.  The other processes try it for a while, note
that the conscience is unappeased, that it continues to shriek, and
they note too, that the outside world has not been even
microscopically improved by the unselfish acts the conscience has
demanded.

p. 56

[Eliot] would argue that the people he was trying to help were the
same sorts of people who, in generations past, had cleared the
forests, drained the swamps, built the bridges, people whose sons
formed the backbone of the infantry in time of war -- and so on.  The
people who leaned on Eliot regularly were a lot weaker than that --
and dumber, too.  When it came to the Armed Forces, for instance, the
sons were generally rejected as being mentally, morally, and
physically undesirable.

p. 61

God bless you, Mr. Rosewater.

p. 64

Eliot kills three unarmed firemen

p. 65

...Eliot did to the word love what the Russians did to the
word democracy.

p. 68
"We don't piss in your ashtrays,
So please don't throw cigarettes in our urinals."

p. 77

Indy, Su-TDM-LO-V2-W3K-K2CP-RF $300
Little was from Indianapolis, was a suicidal tool-and-die maker who
had been laid off, a veteran of the Second World War with a wife and
three children, the second child suffering from cerebral palsy.  Eliot
had award him a Rosewater Fellowship of $300.

p. 79-80

Those who write on Heaven's walls
Should mold their shit in little balls
And those who read these lines of wit
Should eat these little balls of shit

p. 92

...This had reference to Eliot's old custom of sending a share of
International Business Machines stock to each child born in the
country.


p. 100

     The lawyers and bankers felt somewhat cheated, since George
didn't seem to be drawing any soft of moral from what should have been
an important experience in almost any man's life.  One lawyer, who had
been looking forward to pointing out the moral when George got made,
couldn't restrain himself from pointing it out anyway, even though
George was laughing: "People should always readthings before
they sign them."
     "You can bet your boots," said George, "that from now on I
will."

p. 103

Sons of suicide seldom do well.
     Characteristically, they find life lacking a certain
zing.

p. 104

God bless you, Mr. Rosewater

p. 145

     "You know what it says over the door of the National Archives in
Washington?"
     "No," she admitted.
     "The past is prologue"

p. 148
Delbert Peach: 
     "I've got the clap, and the blueballs too.  
     The clap don't hurt, but the blueballs do"

p. 151
     "I'm leaving," said Peach. "I know when I'm not wanted."
     "I imagine you've had plenty of opportunities to learn," said the
Senator.

Kilgore Trout

p. 20

"[Mushari] didn't understand that what Trout had in common with
pornography wasn't sex but fantasies of an impossibly hospitable
world."

p.21

     ..."I want to ask Him something I was never able to find out down
here."
     "What's that?" she said, strapping him in.
     "What in the hell are people for?"

pg. 156

     "You know --" said Eliot, "Kilgore Trout once wrote a whole book
about a country that was devoted to fighting odors.  That was the
national purpose.  There wasn't any disease, and there wasn't any
crime, and there wasn't any war, so they went after odors."
     ...

     The conversation had left the area of peace again.  Eliot's voice
was edgy as he persisted in telling the story by Trout, which was
called Oh, Say Can You Smell?.
     "This country," said Eliot, "had tremendous research projects
devoted to fighting odors They were supported by individual
contributions given to mothers who marched on Sundays from door to
door.  The ideal of the research was to find a specific chemical
deodorant for every odor.  But then the hero, who was also the
country's dictator, made a wonderful scientific breakthrough, even
though he wasn't a scientist, and they didn't need the projects any
more.  He went right to the root of the problem."
     "Uh huh," said the Senator.  He couldn't stand stories by Kilgore
Trout, was embarrassed for his son.  "He found one chemical that would
eliminate all odors?" he suggested, to hasten the tale to a
conclusion.
     "No.  As I say, the hero was a dictator, and he simply eliminated
noses."


References to po-tee-weet in Slaughterhouse-Five

1. on Page 24:
"... except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like "Poo-tee-u,eet?" I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the ..."
2. on Page 28:
"... a pillar of salt. It begins like this: Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. It ends like this: Poo-tee-weet? ..."
3. on Page 127:
"... the end of the war. Billy uncovered his head. The windows of the ward were open. Birds were twittering outside. "Poo-tee-weef"' one asked him. The sun was high. There were twenty-nine other patients assigned to the ward, but they were all ..."
4. on Page 275:
"... drawn by two horses. The wagon was green and coffin- shaped. Birds were talking. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, "Poo-tee-weet?" ..."

References to po-tee-weet in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

1. on Page 255:
"... fountain. He was dappled by sunlight filtering down through a sycamore tree. A bird was singing in the sycamore tree. "Poo-tee-weet?" it sang. "Poo-tee-weet. Weet, weet, weet. " Eliot was within a high garden wall, and the garden was familiar. He ..."
2. on Page 256:
"... side of the garden was bounded by a tennis court, with morning-glories and sweet peas twining in the chicken wire. "Poo-tee-weet?" Eliot looked up at the bird and all the green leaves, understood that this garden in downtown In- dianapolis could ..."
3. on Page 270:
"... KURT VONNEGUT "Poo-tee-weet?" Eliot looked up into the tree again, wondered what his own ideas about Rosewater County had been, ideas he had ..."
4. on Page 272:
"... they couldn't possibly be yours. We have no intention of testing the other fifty-six claimants. They can go to hell." "Poo-tee-weet?" Eliot looked up into the tree, and the memory of all that had happened in the blackness came crash- ing ..."

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