Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Delacorte Press, 1961, 202 pp

This is the book I mentioned in my review of The Dinner, as an example of perfectly executed satire and moral ambiguity. I love opening a Vonnegut novel because I never know what I am going to find. Even when he stumbles, as I feel he did in The Sirens of Titan, he is so uniquely himself and I am never bored.

Howard W Campbell Jr: ersatz Nazi spewing out propaganda for the Party in WWII, undercover CIA spy, loving husband. He is writing his memoirs while languishing in an Israeli prison awaiting trial for war crimes. Vonnegut sets the stage in his introduction:

"This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don't think it's a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

Good advice for all the Facebook addicted people of the world, though in 2014 apt to fall on deaf ears.

So Howard explains how an American lives in Germany, marries a German woman, gets caught up in the prewar Nazi madness, finds himself promulgating Nazi propaganda on worldwide radio, embedding intelligence after his recruitment to the CIA, escapes back to the United States without his wife and without any CIA backup, lives in hiding in a New York City walk up, meets with Fascist types and trickery and eventual betrayal to the Israelis.

It is a mad tale and a cynical as well as bleak assessment of politics, anti-Semitism, and the dangers of pretending. All the while making the reader laugh, smirk, and cringe at the same time.

Truly amazing!

(Mother Night is available in paperback and eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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