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Breakfast of Champions [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (460 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Breakfast of Champions (1973) provides frantic, scattershot satire and a collage of Vonnegut's obsessions. His recurring cast of characters and American landscape was perhaps the most controversial of his canon; it was felt by many at the time to be a disappointing successor to Slaughterhouse-Five, which had made Vonnegut's literary reputation.

The core of the novel is Kilgore Trout, a familiar character very deliberately modeled on the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985), a fact which Vonnegut conceded frequently in interviews and which was based upon his own occasional relationship with Sturgeon. Here Kilgore Trout is an itinerant wandering from one science fiction convention to another; he intersects with the protagonist, Dwayne Hoover (one of Vonnegut's typically boosterish, lost and stupid mid-American characters) and their intersection is the excuse for the evocation of many others, familiar and unfamiliar, dredged from Vonnegut's gallery.

The central issue is concerned with intersecting and apposite views of reality, and much of the narrative is filtered through Trout who is neither certifiably insane nor a visionary writer but can pass for either depending upon Dwayne Hoover's (and Vonnegut's) view of the situation. America, when this novel was published, was in the throes of Nixon, Watergate and the unraveling of our intervention in Vietnam; the nation was beginning to fragment ideologically and geographically, and Vonnegut sought to cram all of this dysfunction (and a goofy, desperate kind of hope, the irrational comfort given through the genre of science fiction) into a sprawling narrative whose sense, if any, is situational, not conceptual.

Reviews were polarized; the novel was celebrated for its bizarre aspects, became the basis of a Bruce Willis movie adaptation whose reviews were not nearly so polarized. (Most critics hated it.) This novel in its freewheeling and deliberately fragmented sequentiality may be the quintessential Vonnegut novel, not necessarily his best, but the work which most truly embodies the range of his talent, cartooned alienation and despair.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.

ABOUT THE SERIES

Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut's World War II POW experience) and Cat's Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut's work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut's work as well as newcomers.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane." So reads the tombstone of downtrodden writer Kilgore Trout, but we have no doubt who's really talking: his alter ego Kurt Vonnegut. Health versus sickness, humanity versus inhumanity--both sets of ideas bounce through this challenging and funny book. As with the rest of Vonnegut's pure fantasy, it lacks the shimmering, fact-fueled rage that illuminates Slaughterhouse-Five. At the same time, that makes this book perhaps more enjoyable to read.

Breakfast of Champions is a slippery, lucid, bleakly humorous jaunt through (sick? inhumane?) America circa 1973, with Vonnegut acting as our Virgil-like companion. The book follows its main character, auto-dealing solid-citizen Dwayne Hoover, down into madness, a condition brought on by the work of the aforementioned Kilgore Trout. As Dwayne cracks, then crumbles, Breakfast of Champions coolly shows the effects his dementia has on the web of characters surrounding him. It's not much of a plot, but it's enough for Vonnegut to air unique opinions on America, sex, war, love, and all of his other pet topics--you know, the only ones that really count.

Review

"Vonnegut performs considerable complex magic... Fresh, funny, outrageous...he very nearly levitates" New York Times "A great deal of wit and playfulness...an entire universe of disorder is distilled" Guardian "Outrageous, witty, thought-provoking, unputdownable, scintillating, invigorating, ennobling, enlightening and masterly" Spectator "Brilliant... It seems, at times, as if Voltaire has returned to satirise the horrors of plastic, disposable America" Sunday Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 1194 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (July 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XRELEI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,818 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut at his most enjoyably incoherent December 2, 2000
Format:Paperback
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. has specialized in two types of novels. The first types are made up of sharp, witty tales that poke fun at humanity, while all the time keeping one eye on the plot. Both SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and MOTHER NIGHT are sterling examples.
The second type of Vonnegut novel is awkward and unusual in the extreme, often leaving the reader dazed, thumping his or her head on the floor in a vain attempt at comprehension. They are enjoyable, but their precise meaning continues to elude. TIMEQUAKE is a fine example. BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS is another.
BREAKFAST, to define some semblance of a plot, follows two main story threads. In the first, Vonnegut presents us with Dwayne Hoover, car-salesman extrordinaire, who is slowly and surely losing his mind. In the second, we have Vonnegut regular Kilgore Trout, the unemployed and unlikable science-fiction writer, who is hitch-hiking his way across the country to recieve a sizable award at an arts convention.
This is the plot, but Vonnegut adheres to it only in passing. In countless asides and divergences, Vonnegut explores sex, race, politics, sex, enviromental catastrophe, sex, aliens, robots, god, and sex. All this, plus numerous obscene doodles and an appearance from Vonnegut himself, bestowing wisdom upon his creations.
What, exactly, is Vonnegut trying to say? American culture is a vast wasteland of imbecility? People are generally self-centred and greedy, and above all, not nice? As a culture, America is doomed to die in its own sewage? The answer to all would seem to be yes. Vonnegut has often had a core of anger in his writings, and BREAKFAST is perhaps his angriest.
But BREAKFAST is not simply a gloomy discussion of the end of us all. Vonnegut is far too wise to dwell on man's foibles for long.
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73 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and wonderful: pure Vonnegut March 28, 2002
Format:Paperback
Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Breakfast of Champions" follows the odyssey of oddball science fiction writer Kilgore Trout from his melancholy childhood in Bermuda, to the sleazy underside of New York City, and eventually to a fateful encounter with car dealer Wayne Hoover, a man "on the brink of going insane." Within this framework Vonnegut weaves an amazing satiric tapestry that looks at racism, mental illness, environmental crises, the nature and function of art, and many other issues. The book is filled with Vonnegut's own quirky illustrations.
"Breakfast" is harsh, even cruel, but also tender and compassionate; it's laugh-out-loud funny, yet haunting and tragic. It's also a reality-warping metaphysical triumph; Vonnegut breaks down the barriers between reality and fiction, and invites the reader into the very process of the novel's creation. He creates a more intimate bond between author, reader, and fictional character than any other writer I can think of.
Vonnegut presents some of American literature's most memorable characters in "Breakfast." But my favorite is undoubtedly Trout. Throughout the book we also get glimpses of Trout's own voluminous body of work, and meet some of his bizarre sci-fi characters. The book as a whole is also enriched by Vonnegut's unique style; he writes as if for an extraterrestrial audience to whom humanity is utterly alien.
"Breakfast" is a profane, naughty, yet profoundly spiritual book. Filled with strange and vivid details, it's an oddly comforting modern-day testament for our fractured world. Thanks, Kurt.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut is Creator of my Universe January 6, 2000
Format:Paperback
Is it possible to say anything new about a book that has been in print for ~30 years, that has been read by millions, and which is widely studied in schools and universities?
No... but I do want to say that I loved every word (and illustration). You can pick up this old novel and get a very fresh outlook both on the human condition and on how novels ought to be written.
Vonnegut writes like he is explaining life on Earth to alien children. It is a tool that produces incredibly poignant satire, which he uses effectively to give commentary on conditions of life that the vast majority of us accept without even noticing. The language used is very simple but wonderfully lyrical, less-than-average readers will fly right through it.
Although clearly sadenned by his life, and by his observations of the planet, Vonnegut wrote a masterpiece that remains hopeful in its despair.
Kurt Vonnegut is a genius, and will no doubt be recognized as one of the 20th Century's greatest.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Although not his most popular work, this is in my opinion Vonnegut's most brilliant novel. Superficially it seems childish, with it's inane illustrations (by the author) and rambling, seemingly unstructured text. But probe a little deeper and some truly profound insights emerge, and there is litle doubt that this is a work of carefully crafted, absolute genius.
There are at least four main themes in this book, and the way Vonnegut weaves them together is both masterful and unorthodox. (In no particular order) the first theme is of madness - Dwayne Hoover has finally fallen victim to the chemicals in his brain, and much of the narrative unfolds around his descent into lunacy and violence. The second theme is that of the alienation of modern-day life, as a despairing Kilgore Trout makes his "Pilgrim's Progress" across small-town USA, and Wayne Hoobler spends the novel waiting pathetically for his dreams to come true while standing by a Holiday Inn dumpster. The third theme is on the meaning of all art, both in Rabo Karabekian's stunning exposition on modern painting, and on Vonnegut's own musings about the point of writing a novel (which occurs within the narrative).
And the final theme, binding it all together, is that of love and connection. As is found in many of Vonnegut's works, he argues that the giving and receiving of love is the only thing that makes our otherwise meaningless lives valuable. Many people miss this point when they read Vonnegut, and hence come away feeling Vonnegut is a very bitter man. If you see this, you'll discover he is actually a deeply compassionate one.
I have read this book many times, and each time come away with a new insight. Read it and treasure it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the wild ride.
Kurt's books make reading a joy no matter how far the trail leads off the beaten path. You will enjoy the ride.
Published 3 days ago by flyinpro
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth The Read
It wasn't what I expected since I had confused Vonnegut with another author. However, it is a very interesting commentary on the world that we live in. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Kente Johnson
3.0 out of 5 stars weirdly beautiful
I enjoyed tis book and was compelled to keep reading, but I finish also unsatisfied. The end felt lazy and rushed after the careful consideration of the start. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Robin
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Book
I could not read this book. It droned on senselessly. I abandoned it. It was cheap but still a waste of money.
Published 6 days ago by L. Bankerd
1.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Read
I had a difficult time reading this book. It had no plot, flow, or organization to it. This is the first I read of Kurts work, maybe that is his style. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Clean Phil
2.0 out of 5 stars I am a very literal person, and none of ...
I am a very literal person, and none of this book made any sense to me. Presume it was some sort of metaphor, but it was lost on me. Read more
Published 12 days ago by granny chlp
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut gave us doses of strong black coffee...
As always, Vonnegut gave us doses of strong black coffee, mirroring in the black brew who we are as a species, without sentimental apology, allowing us to make the wry... Read more
Published 13 days ago by cpwren
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
This book definitely has a unique point of view. It's as funny and insightful as any Vonnegut novel. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Jason D. Sands
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this read very much
Enjoyed this read very much. The illustrations are unique and add a rich element to the text. Vonnegut is quite the master of throwing the reader into his universe and allowing... Read more
Published 17 days ago by angelo j donatelli
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Yes!
Published 18 days ago by Josh Bowles
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More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

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