Is it possible that the rather precipitous decline in marcher participation is due to Rosewater following Cat’s Cradle? I must admit that this story seemed to end in a rather weak polyanna-ish resolution of ‘give away the fortune & love everybody.’ However, I was impressed that Kurt saw the coming problem of machines making human workers unnecessary that still isn’t fully resolved.
Nothing I am, or have ever done, qualifies me to be critical of anything written by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. But I’m not going to let that stop me. because “GBY Mr. Rosewater” is a crappy piece of fiction.
I’ve already expressed my disappointment and frustration with the lack of momentum, focus and coherence in this story. But I was still hoping it would be redeemed by a slam-bang knockout ending. No way. The story ends, to quote a different Eliot, “not with a bang, but a whimper.”
Nothing is convincingly resolved by the ending, neither the plot nor the fate of any characters. It’s as if Vonnegut ran out of lead for his pencil.
Norman Mushari, the central villain, introduced on the first page, and featured throughout the tale, is AWOL, off -stage at the ending. Eliot, having been completely non compos mentis for over a year, suddenly regains his memory, his competence and his confidence, then instructs his attorney to draw up papers to make legitimate heirs out of the 57 children that have falsely been attributed to him. This provides an unlimited source of direct descendants to assume the Presidency of the Rosewater Foundation, thereby foiling the greedy ambition of Norman Mushari. But we aren’t even told about Mushari’s reaction, which should have been priceless.
This ending is dissatisfying in SO many ways. Interesting characters developed earlier in the story are orphaned without so much as looking back. I’m left wondering what was going to become of Lila Buntline, the young champion sailor and black market porn trader. Why she was even introduced to us? And what of the only even semi-heroic figures, Harry Pena and his boys? Did their satisfyingly macho enterprise survive, or did it fall into the bankruptcy forecast by Bunny Weeks? So many tantalizing loose ends left dangling.
The unexpected “ending” isn’t even persuasively the end of the story. Eliot’s instructions to legally acknowledge his parentage of every Rosewater County child said to be his won’t really resolve future control of the Foundation. His inspired legal instructions probably can’t be legally implemented, and are actually further evidence of his insanity. Any reader foolish enough to think half seriously about the plausibility of this resolution can easily foresee that the bogus attempt to create legal heirs will be successfully challenged by Mushari, in future chapters left unwritten. Vonnegut didn’t finish the story; instead, he must have realized that this narrative effort was an nonredeemable failure. He thereupon just quit and went home, or went away to work on something with more promise.
God bless you Mr. Rosewater. Also goodbye and good riddance. And now, ONWARD, PLEASE!
Despite everything, I have to say that I quite enjoyed this last stretch of “Mr. Rosewater.” Lots of that trademark Vonnegut humor, an in-the-flesh appearance by Kilgore Trout himself, and an ending that put a smile on my face, abrupt and implausible though it may have been.
We also got a couple of arrows pointing in the direction of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” in the form of the bird singing “Poo-tee-weet” and the references to the firebombing of Dresden. I get the feeling that Vonnegut’s WWII experiences had been festering inside him and needed to get out; this may explain his sometimes halfhearted effort in “Mr. Rosewater.” He was ready to get on to the next thing.
Totally agree with Jim’s negative comments on the book, but also agree with Bill that this feels in some ways like a warm-up to Slaughterhouse Five, which doesn’t necessarily excuse the disappointing execution of this one. I also did enjoy the moments of humor that he can’t help but throw in now and then–going for the cheap laugh usually works on me, as far as Vonnegut is concerned. And of course his moral outrage about the distribution of wealth in this country is pretty fuggin’ resonant right now—if he only knew where we’d be in 2016. But yeah, this one was a bit of a mess. Looking forward to the next one, which I’ve read about 5 times and can’t wait to read again.
Ha, so just how crazy does one have to be to want to spread the wealth?? Satisfying ending, glad Eliot turned the tables on the sorry lot.
This ended up growing on me in spite of the aforementioned flaws. Raised thought-provoking questions and delivered enough humorous touches along the way to keep me going.
Not as compelling of a book as CC but really loved how Elliot developed – and the chaotic meanderings of the book that mirrored Elliot’s mental illness/addiction. The end was fabulous in my opinion, but I tend to enjoy stories that leave me with more questions than answers. Elliot didn’t live sensibly and tossing his money to some of his many “children” at the end fit him like a glove. Ready for SH5.
I got one laugh out loud moment out of this and a few satisfied smiles at his deft skewering of the rich (expecting to be thanked for the sunset – priceless.) Then I skimmed it again to see if anything else stuck. Nope.
I happened to first encounter KV well after college (did high school abroad, never heard of him there), at the same time I came across Jerzy Kosinski. I must have been conflating the two authors in my mind because nothing so far is engaging me like The Painted Bird did. If SH5 doesn’t do it, I despair of Kurt. Onward.
I made it through Pynchon but seem unable to read more than 2 pages of Rosewater at a sitting. I enjoy the felicitous language and set pieces, but just can’t keep up sustained effort. Yes, it’s an effort, and that surprises me. Will go on to Slaughterhouse Five and hope my attention span improves. Yes; onward.