Thursday, June 19, 2014

Breakfast of Champions: A Review

Breakfast of Champions
Written by: Kurt Vonnegut
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Language: English
March 1973
Genre: Fiction

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.

+++++++++++++

Every month for book club a new member chooses a book. We all have varying tastes and niches we go to so it has been interesting to read books that are outside of my comfort zone. But that is what we wanted to do, read books we normally wouldn’t read. Now it’s not that I don’t like Kurt Vonnegut, I just have to be in the right mood. Kathleen loves him to little itty bitty pieces. Breakfast of Champions is her favorite book and she cannot count the number of times she has read and reread the book. Everyone probably has a book like that, you know the one I am talking about…the one you go to when nothing else sounds good. Its dog eared and well loved, that go to book when you are in a particular mood, the one you could talk about for hours, and the one you wish you could be part of. For me that book is Beauty by Robin McKinley. For Kathleen it is Breakfast of Champions.

Breakfast of Champions follows Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover – and the events that lead up and follow their meeting. Trout is a science-fiction writer, and one who believes his work to be completely unknown within the community. But after he receives an invitation to the Midland City Arts Festival he is not so sure. Dwayne is a businessman in the Midlands Area is going insane. This is made worse when he meets Trout, reads one of his books, and becomes convinced that not only is the book real but that he is the only one in the universe that has free will and everyone else is a robot.

On top of this crazy little tale you also have the storyteller who is telling you Kilgore and Dwayne’s tale as if you may not be from Earth. For example when speaking about Columbus he tells you, “The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.” He even draws pictures on occasion for you dear reader.

Things I loved: Breakfast of Champions is not the average book that I read. We’ve gone a little meta, but in a good way. There are things I really like about the book and then others that are just too quirky for my tastes. But let’s go back to the good stuff. For example the way the story is told. Not only do you have the story of Kilgore and Dwayne, but you have the narrator who may or not be Vonnegut. The narrator is not only telling the story, but he inserts himself into the story…he has control over it. We all want to be stories. We think of ourselves as having beginnings, middles, and ends, but then again life is never that neat. It’s chaos. It doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t have an ending. It is all a bit of etc. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, one that breaks the fourth wall and kind of makes you think…or maybe that was just me. There is no end. And you don’t get the whole story, but do we ever.

It also brings up some ideas about free will, life, and history as we may or may not know it. I did find myself laughing at many different parts. This is good. It also tackles racism, war, sex, politics, and pretty much of every other hot button topic. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it falls flat, but mostly it works especially when he describes things as if you, the reader, are an alien life form and don’t exactly understand how things work down on Earth.

Things I didn’t love so much: There are some things that I didn’t like about it. It took a while for me to get into it and I found myself wanting more cultural and Earth insights than I did about Dwayne and Kilgore. I wanted more of the meta. While watching someone descend into utter madness should be fun, Dwayne was boring. I didn’t care and that was unfortunate. And let’s face it, sometimes, it was just too quirky for me. I can see why Kathleen absolutely adores the book, but there was something a little too odd for me. I think it is one of those books that you have to be in the right mood for. Kind of like how I feel about country music. Unfortunately, I am rarely in that mood for something that quirky. I respect Vonnegut as a writer. I think he certainly has earned his place among the greats. I just wish I felt the same fangirlyness for him as Kathleen does.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. This is hard because I think in the right mood I would have loved it and you have to appreciate Vonnegut as he is an amazing writer, but I recommend some of his other books first.

Part of: Stand Alone though it does feature a character from other books.

Also Recommended: For more Vonnegut books please give Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Welcome to the Monkey House, and God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater. Plus many more.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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