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Breakfast of Champions: A Novel Paperback – May 11, 1999
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"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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
This book also stars Kilgore Trout, who before being honored by Eliot Rosewater is nowhere famous.
Actually, Trout is famous because the writer who created him, Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is famous, and he wrote this book. Vonnegut is also a character in the book, and he knows that he is writing it.
Vonnegut makes Hoover, Trout, and Rosewater his puppets. It is a fun breaking of third and fourth walls, almost metafictive, and it doesn’t make you feel like Vonnegut is trying to say “Look how clever I am” because he really is clever. In an understated way. All the characters come together for a thing that happens. I won’t spoil it for you.
I first read this when I was in my early 20s. I lay on full-sized mattress as the springs poked me through the cheap foam pad, and I was deep in Vonnegut’s world. The time passed too fast. I read it again this weekend, after a dozen years or so. The only difference is that I sat up for the most part, on a comfortable couch I own. That, and I appreciated the drawings differently (There are a number of drawings). The younger version of me liked them because they were a bit risqué. Older me wanted each new drawing to be a new tattoo.
The story of Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout, and their crazed antics and lifestyles leading up to their pinnacle meeting point is as hilarious as it can get. It's full of satire and cynicism regarding life in general (especially that of the late sixties and early seventies). The way Vonnegut picks at sex (you'll notice the way he mentions the size of a man's genitalia when introducing a character into the story, just as an author would describe hair or eyes), and racism (for the 'N' word is ridiculed and teased), is sheer lunacy at its most hilarious level.
If you're ever in the mood to read something that isn't exactly intended to change the world or move mountains with intellectualism, but at the same time, does have the power to force us to think a little about life, and make us laugh horrendously as well, then this is it.
My only complaint is the sound people need to get the audio gain issue under control. Actor Tucci's sound resonance varied too much in volume.
Still, it was well worth the price and perfect company for the vacation traffic.
I get the feeling Kurt's covered the nonsense of vacations somewhere.
"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.