Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mother Night - Kurt Vonnegut

1961; 268 pages. Genre : Contemporary Lit. Overall Rating : B.
On the surface, Harold W. Campbell is a World War 2 "Lord Haw-Haw", an American who broadcasts propaganda for Nazi Germany to the Allied soldiers fighting in Europe. Only a select few know he is actually a hero, a double-agent transmitting vital war secrets via coded phrases in his radio diatribes.
What's To Like...
It's Vonnegut; it rocks. There's a fascinating storyline, superior writing, and a bunch of interesting characters, most of whom turn out to be not what they seem.

.Vonnegut gives us the moral on the first page of the introduction : "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." A couple pages later, his dedication to Campbell reads, "a man who served evil too openly and good too secretly, the crime of his times."

.There's a brief reference to a great, obscure historical figure - Tiglath-Pileser (pg. 4), and a cameo appearance by one of my favorite words - susurrus (pg. 177). Oh, and I swear each of the 45 chapters ends with a storyline "twist". Try pulling that off every 3 or 4 pages.

.Underneath all the absurdity, Vonnegut examines a fundamental question - what constitutes the "real" you? Is it your innermost being, or is it the summation of the effect your actions have on Humanity?

.If the theme of Slaughterhouse Five is the insanity of war; then Mother Night is its sequel, with a theme of the senselessness of post-war. MN is not quite up there with S-5 and The Sirens of Titan, but it's still a superior book, and highly recommended.

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile. (pg. 160)

."Any news of my parents?" I said.
"I'm sorry to tell you-" he said, "they died four months ago."
"Both?" I said.
"Your father first - your mother 24 hours later. Heart both times," he said.
I cried a little about that, shook my head. "Nobody told them what I was really doing?" I said.
"Our radio station in the heart of Berlin was worth more than the peace of mind of two old people," he said.
"I wonder," I said.
"You're entitled to wonder, " he said. "I'm not."

No comments: