Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut. I read this on the recommendation of Phil Nugent, and it was the missing gem that out-sparkles everything else in the crown of Vonnegut’s literature (or literateria). The novel is the confession of Howard Campbell, Jr., American spy and Nazi propagandist, written just prior to his trial in Israel on war crimes. The inspiration of the novel comes from the famous trial of Eichmann (written about so well by Hannah Arendt—and if you haven’t read Eichmann in Jerusalem, you really should) and the questions of evil and complicity that arose from that trial. The novel professes to be about identity and evil—and on one level it is. But on another level it is about loss—the loss of love, and the loss of identity—and despair. There are numerous inconsistencies in the story—both with historical fact and with its own internal fictions—and yet, we would expect nothing less from an "autobiography" (written in the literary tradition of Lolita et al.).
The only other Vonnegut novel that really had an impact on me was Bluebeard—which is either underappreciated, or really not that good... take your pick. I never developed a strong appreciation for Vonnegut—perhaps I didn’t find him that funny, or imaginative, or touching? But Mother Night is haunting. Sincerely profound. It is a story that tells more by what is not described as by what is. A story that works as much in shadow as in light. Something to aspire to.
Banksy’s Wall and Peace is delicious fun. For someone such as myself who isn’t really enamored with graffiti (truly there is nothing as inartistic as writing ‘I was here’ on a wall... the equivalent to a dog pissing on a tree) I can’t help but make an exception for Banksy, whose work I find engaging, thought-provoking, and whimsical. Perhaps I am influenced by the fact that his work is more political than artistic, more exposé than cover. Perhaps you’ll agree? Or perhaps you’ll find his work a suitable sponge for coffee stains? Check out his periodically changing website. Well worth your time.