June 10th, 2009

red panda eating bamboo

Booklog: Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

I listened to the Audible Modern Classics edition, well narrated by Victor Levine. I especially liked his characterization of the Blue Fairy Godmother.

This book is set in WWII Germany, post-war New York City, and a prison cell in Israel. It has no science fiction tropes. I did not find any of the characters particularly likeable (but that's true of most Vonnegut for me).

A line from this book is one of the favorites in my quote file, and it sums up one of the themes of the book:
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
This book is evidence that Vonnegut is one of the great American writers. He has the gift of making hope out of emptiness and simplicity, something that many people assume only Zen Buddhist masters can do.

View all my goodreads.com reviews.


Goodreads.com posted to my Facebook status line when I added this book, and my friend [info] - personalsupergee commented that he didn't like the book. I asked why and he wrote "Not sf, crappy characters, dumb moral."

I agree with point 1.

I also somewhat agree with point 2 (see above) and it puzzles me why Vonnegut's "crappy characters" don't bother me the way some writers' crappy characters do. I think it has something to do with how Vonnegut's protagonists mostly aren't emo, and/or how Vonnegut's writing style is definitely not emo. (I'm contrasting it to my reaction to Dan Simmons's Hyperion, which has some tremendously emo characters which are punched up because the writing style can be pretty emo.)

I don't know what [info] - personalsupergee thinks the moral of the book is; the closest I can come to a moral in it is what I quoted above. I don't think that's a dumb moral, although I'm not sure I agree with it. (For me, it might be a prescription that I tend to over-follow. I have a hard time pretending, and it limits me in some ways.)