Breakfast of Champions
I'm one of those people who you would have figured has read everything Kurt Vonnegut has written, judging by the fact that I work at a bookstore and have a slightly perverted and darkly satirical outlook on life. Sadly, upon discussing a Vonnegut plot or essay, I have always had to cut the conversation short with the dagger, "I've never read Kurt Vonnegut before." This proclamation is received the same way as someone who would say they've never seen the Godfather or heard a Beatles record. After these interactions became unbearable, I decided to give in and read a frequently recommended title, Breakfast of Champions.
Upon completing my first Vonnegut novel, I've got to say, I am now a member of the "Oh My God You Have to Read Kurt Vonnegut" club. In Breakfast, a science fiction author, Kilgore Trout, writes work that never gets published or receives recognition until his novel "Now it Can be Told" ends up in the hands of Dwayne Hoover, a Pontiac salesman who is slowly going insane. Dwayne's imminent insanity boils over after he completes Trout's novel, which is a story in the form of a letter from a godly figure to a man living on a planet where every other living being is a machine. Dwayne perceives the book to be a letter to him, as he comes to the conclusion that he is the only human with free will, and that everyone around him is a machine. Violence and insanity ensue.
An excellent study of perception and solitude in small town America, Vonnegut's humor and message are spot on. I've never been a member of a book club, but after reading this novel, I wish I had 8 - 10 people to discuss it with. There are many characters that enter and exit the novel, and become chess pieces in Vonnegut's fictional (yet all too real) American town. The writing is frantic when it needs to be, organized at the right moments, and has fantastically sarcastic descriptions of rural outlooks and attitudes. Vonnegut's illustrations also help to provide the tone and pace of the story. Even if you've already read this book, you should read it again, come into the store, and chat with me about it. One of us will probably be a better person by the end of the conversation. -- Jon Stich
In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.
About the Author
Kurt Vonnegut’s black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as “a true artist” (The New York Times) with Cat’s Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.
Praise for Breakfast of Champions…
“Marvelous . . . [Vonnegut] wheels out all the complaints about America and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful and lovable.”—The New York Times
“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist.”—Time
“Free-wheeling, wild and great . . . uniquely Vonnegut.”—Publishers Weekly