God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut is a wonderful writer with a gentle, witty and humane approach tempered by a clear-eyed rage at the iniquities of the world. This is one of his more whimsical efforts but it nails the complacency of inherited wealth brilliantly. Our hero, Eliot Rosewater, is considered mad for wanting to share his unearned money with the poor, rather than use it to make yet more cash. The story’s sentimentality is offset by the fact that the poor here really are undeserving - variously ungrateful, stupid, feckless and extremely funny.
I was also touched by Eliot’s impromptu secular rite of baptism:
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-:
God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.