For the last couple of years friends of mine are constantly coming to me to ask what book they should check out next. After talking with one of my friends I decided to add a “Book of the Month” to my blog in the hopes of helping other people find books that I find worthwhile that they may not have heard of. To those who know me it’s not suprise that my first pick is by Kurt Vonnegut (one of my favorite people to ever live) his novel Mother Night.
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” -KV
Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.
My Take, Why its worth a read:
The more I learn about Kurt Vonnegut the more I can’t get enough of him. He constantly challenges American “norms” and forces us to ask the question “why.” Everyone knows him as the author of Slaughterhouse 5 but few read other books of his. This might be my favorite of them all.
But the thing I love best about Kurt Vonnegut is that he was both the ultimate cynic and the ultimate humanist. What better character for him to create to embody those views than a Nazi with good intentions? This entire book centers around the concept of personal identity. Are we who we think we are or are we really who everyone believes us to be? What do we do if we can’t change the outside perception of ourselves? Is it better to fight for who we really are or go along with the outside image? Vonnegut examines these queestions and more in Mother Nightand it wouldn’t be a Kurt Vonnegut book if there weren’t some twists and turns along the way.
“You hate America, don’t you?’
That would be as silly as loving it,’ I said. ‘It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to a human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.”
About the Author:
Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.
He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student paper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in WW II.
After the war, he attended University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a police reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He left Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York in public relations for General Electric. He attributed his writing style to his reporting work.
His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden, Germany whilst a prisoner of war, would inform much of his work.Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana’s own Eugene V. Debs) and a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat’s Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973