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Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
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Breakfast of Champions (original 1973; edition 1973)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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11,717103225 (4.01)169
Member:Alabroad
Title:Breakfast of Champions
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:Cape, Jonathan (1973), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (1973)

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This is the third Vonnegut book I've read...and possibly one that makes me feel he was a bit unstable himself. In Slaughterhouse Five, I thought everyone was purposefully crazy to give the impression that war is crazy (like Catch-22). Welcome to Monkey House was a selection of short stories, which I felt were excellent...but this was jut like crazy after crazy. Entertaining book to be sure. And I loved the digs at american history and culture. But crazy!! :) ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
This is the third Vonnegut book I've read...and possibly one that makes me feel he was a bit unstable himself. In Slaughterhouse Five, I thought everyone was purposefully crazy to give the impression that war is crazy (like Catch-22). Welcome to Monkey House was a selection of short stories, which I felt were excellent...but this was jut like crazy after crazy. Entertaining book to be sure. And I loved the digs at american history and culture. But crazy!! :) ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Breakfast of Champions = martini.
Tap-dancing and farting = alien communication.
Creator of the universe = author.
Wide open beavers = well, you know.
”And so on.”

There was a sign in my head while reading this. Here is what it said: Why are you reading this nonsense?

OK, so the description from my library says, “Breakfast of Champions is vintage Vonnegut. One of his favorite characters, aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. The result 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.”

I get it – it’s satire. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like the story. I didn’t like the silly science fiction tales thrown in via the writer character. I didn’t like any of the characters. My son loves Vonnegut, so I was glad to take the opportunity via the American Authors challenge to give him a try. But I am obviously not the reader for Vonnegut. For that reason, to my personal low opinion of it, I’ve added an extra star. ( )
2 vote countrylife | Jun 4, 2014 |
Biting satire, crude drawings, crazy characters--a deliciously low-brow humor. This is an amazing accomplishment.

Who is Kilgore Trout? I’m Kilgore Trout, you’re Kilgore Trout. He is every hack writing who ever felt overwhelmed by his creativity and underwhelmed by his talent. He is anyone who has ever tried and failed. I suppose there is a little Trout in all of us, especially if you like seafood.

One of the great things about the book is Kilgore Trout’s endless imagination and his ability to come up with a science fiction story for just about anything. Kilgore Trout reminds me of Douglas Adams.

Was Douglas Adams of a figment of Kurt Vonnegut’s imagination?

In a way the book is written with all the subtlety of a middle schooler--of course, underneath is the mind of genius. But then again, we were all smarter in middle school. We were also free to use our imaginations before the forces out there told us that our writing and imagination was actually poo-poo.

The book is squarely the child of the 1970s. It is blunt, childish, full of anger at Vietnam and the pollution of the earth. I know this is a bad comparison, but why not a bad comparison--Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.--anyone? anyone? After all, it seems like Vonnegut imagined Douglas Adams before Douglas Adams was Douglas Adams the writer.

Quite a few of the chapters and sections end with the words, “And so on.” As if we are doomed to repeat the same asinine things throughout life.

In the end, does the book have an ending? Do the pieces fit? I have great admiration for Stephen King, but unfortunately, many of his books have no ending and sometimes the pieces don’t fit.

I should also say this--there is also a lots of fourth wall breaking. In other words, the author refers to himself within the book as the creator of the book (VALIS is another great example of this technique--it’s a marvelous book) Can anyone explain to me what the first three walls are? (This wikipedia article may have some answers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_four...)

By the way, Vonnegut’s book consistently made me think of this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfPdh...

My view of this book is one of 3,227 on goodreads. This can either make me feel insignificant, as one in an ocean of 3,227, or it can make me feel part of a community. Honestly, I’m just happy that that many people still read.

Yes, a lot of fourth wall breaking. I want to say happy 50th anniversary to the author, but then I realize the book was written in the early 1970s and Mr. Vonnegut has since passed on.

Thank you Fujisawa library for letting me read this book free of charge! Classy move Fujisawa library, classy move.

At points in the novel, Vonnegut falls into bouts of laziness and pessimism so deep and lonely that only words such as “And so on” and “ETC” can pull him through. Things--terrible things continue to happen to all us humans because we’re robots and we can’t help ourselves.

So, instead of trying to make meaning of things, he inserts crude drawings and uses these repetitive literary devices to make the story move.

And you know what, that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. If I could, I would draw a thumbs up.

This is only the second Kurt Vonnegut book I’ve read. I’ll read more later.

After reading Vonnegut’s biography on Wikipedia, I wonder: Did somebody just make that up? Do people really live lives that interesting? Orson Welles did. But he was a director and movie star, not an author.

My life is nowhere near that interesting.

By the way, this is a fantastic book. You should read it on a day when you feel stuck, approaching the age of fifty, or just want to ponder the great questions like, “What’s it all about?” ( )
1 vote DanielClausen | May 6, 2014 |
I finished reading this book a few days ago and while I like to try to write my commentary soon after I have finished reading this book, others things (such as my monthly Friday Night Magic – and despite the fact that I absolutely suck at Magic – I still like to go) sort of got in the way. Anyway, if there is one thing that I can say about this book is that by the end of it it had COMPLETELY DONE MY HEAD IN. I was actually wondering around Melbourne looking at all the machines that the creator had created simply to respond to me – such as the begging machines that sit outside of the railway station because they make more money demeaning themselves (and it is tax free income) than actually doing something productive, and the whining machine that sits opposite me at work who all day bitches and moans about how much he hates his job but probably has no idea what it is like to be unemployed.
Anyway, before I get on to what I am talking about with regards to these machines I have to say that this is one of those very unique books. In a way it takes the concept of modernism to the absolute extreme. Where as a lot of modernist writers write about the ordinary, Vonnegut goes one step further and writes about one can considered to be the boring. He writes in very short sentences, not overly descriptive, but will talk about things that are incredibly irrelevant, like the interstate that goes past the new Holiday Inn. Further, he breaks up the story (which is a pretty ordinary story about how two people meet and the result of that meeting) with pictures of things that are probably irrelevant to the story as a whole. For instance, he talks about an asshole, and the draws a simply picture of an asshole (which looks like a asterix).
With the drawings and the pictures one sort of wonders if he is trying to write a children's book, but considering the concepts that he explores and talks about in this book I highly suspect that he is not. It feels that in a way he is writing down to the average person in the United States and suggesting through the style of his writing, that the intelligence and intellectual ability of the average American is not that much greater than that of a child. In fact, this book is incredibly scathing of American society, and the pointlessness of the book (it doesn't go anywhere, and while the two main characters end up switching roles at the end, they never get anywhere, nor do they grow, nor do they accomplish anything) is a scathing attack on the pointlessness of the modern American society.
In fact, what Vonnegut does is that he rips away the veil that covers the faces of most Americans (and Australians as well) and shows us what really is. For instance, at the beginning of the book, he rewrites the story of the founding of America by white man by indicating (no actually he says outright) that they never actually found anything because millions of human beings had already found the continent and where living there quite happily until a bunch of sea pirates (meaning the Pilgrims) came along and took it away from them.
In fact Vonnegut leaves nothing out in his scathing attack at American society, and some of his attacks are quite straight forward, such as his attack against the obsession with wide open beavers that American men have (and also goes into a side note on how the term beaver came about), and others are much more subtle. One of the ways he does this is by telling us about the stories that Kilgore Trout, the science-fiction writer who is one of the main characters in the book, wrote. One of these stories is about a planet where the sentient race were automobiles and that this race had destroyed their planet, however another alien visited this planet and went to Earth to warn them, however they stole the idea of the automobile from him and killed him instead of listening to his warning.
Another of the stories satirises our obsession with sex and pornographic films. Sex is a pleasurable thing, but Vonnegut considers that this obsession with watching people have sex, and explicit sex, on film to be absurd. To put this absurdity in context he writes about a planet that would make the dirtiest movies that anybody could think of, and a visitor from Earth goes and watches one of these movies and discovers that the entire movie involves people eating food. In fact the eating of food in these films is incredibly detailed and explicit. As such, what Vonnegut is suggesting is that watching two people have sex, and getting excited over the fact that two people are having sex, is just as absurd as watching somebody eat an apple, or a steak, or even a bowl of mashed potato. Eating food is incredibly pleasurable, but we don't react when we watch somebody eat food, so why do we react when we watch people having sex.
I would probably put this book into the absurd, in the same sense that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Waiting for Godot are absurd, however the book explores the absurdity of what our society has become. For instance, Vonnegut gets to the point where he describes the dimensions of the penises of every single male character in his book (and the dimensions of some of the female characters in the book as well) and at one point the dimension is so huge that he suggested that most of this guy's penis existed only in the forth dimension. In a way it is an attack against our obsession with pointless things. The size of a character's penis adds absolutely nothing to the character, in the same way that numerous authors would add details to their characters which added nothing to that character.
There is actually quite a lot that I could write about this book and haven't even touched upon, such as the concept of race. For instance, Vonnegut describes that this idea of discriminating against somebody based upon the colour of their skin is as absurd as describing the dimensions of somebody's penis. However, this happens, and Vonnegut is very blunt about it. He actually goes one step further with this absurdity with regards to race by introducing a Nigerian into the book, who is actually more well respected in the story than the average Afro-American because he is not an Afro-American, he is a Nigerian with a medical degree.
Now, I should finish off with this discussion about the machines because, well, I said that I would talk about it. The story that this relates to is the story that makes Kilgore Trout famous, and that is the a story that is actually a letter from God to the reader in that God explains that the reader is the only person in the planet with free will and that everybody else is simply a machine that reacts to the person with free will. In fact the billions of machines that are created are created just in case they may, some time in the future, interact with the reader. This story sends the other main character insane, and he ends up going on a rampage which results in a lot of people suing him and sending him onto Skid Row (and I haven't even mentioned this idea about 'bad chemicals' that Vonnegut talks about).
I remember sitting at a table in one of my friend's houses one when a couple of other friends had come over. My friend said to one of the girls there that he understood her view of the universe, and that is that outside of her immediate perception nothing existed, and that existence only existed when she could actually perceive existence, which meant that before she was born there was nothing, and once she dies, the universe returns to nothing. This is the absurd end of individualism, in the same sense that the idea that the reader is the only entity with free will is also an absurd end of individualism. ( )
  David.Alfred.Sarkies | Apr 20, 2014 |
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Epigraph
When he hath tried me,
I shall come forth as gold.
-JOB
Dedication
In Memory of Phoebe Hurty,,
who comforted me in Indianapolis--
during the Great Depression
.
First words
This is the tale of a meeting of two lonely, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.
Quotations
Roses are red and ready for plucking; you’re sixteen and ready for high school.
Here is a picture of a wide open beaver.
Sometimes I wonder about the creator of the universe.
The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were.
New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.
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The author questions the condition of modern man in this novel depicting a science fiction writer's struggle to find peace and sanity in the world.

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