Book Review: “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut (1973)

[Book #1 of Club Bibliodeca – 2015]

“The thing was: Trout was the only character that I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being.”

Breakfast of Champions is the story of two imagined men, Sci-fi author Kilgore Trout and automobile salesman Dwayne Hoover, and their approach to a fateful meeting designed by the Creator of their Universe, Kurt Vonnegut. My overall impression of this book (before I get much farther) is this: Breakfast is perhaps the most pessimistic Vonnegut I’ve ever read. And that’s saying something! Through the vehicle of quirky fiction, this novel emphasizes Vonnegut’s own humanist beliefs about life: “As for myself, I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing sacred about myself or about any human being, that we are all machines, doomed to collide and collide and collide.” And so his characters do on nearly every miserable page of the book.

Like I’ve done with most of his works, I began Breakfast not really sure why I was reading the dumb story (other than the fact that it’s part of my book club). But then I kept reading. I got caught up. His characters are so human. His plots are so creatively simple. Yet his message is entirely…godless. It doesn’t take a literary genius to uncover Vonnegut’s general themes in his works. In this particular book, his message is thus: the Creator of the Universe didn’t know what He was doing when He created the universe, especially when He made mankind; Kurt could have done a whole lot better, and when he tried, he was totally lousy at it! Sounds like a worthwhile read, right?

Perhaps due to its intent to describe the “all is vanity” of life, Breakfast of Champions (a title which actually describes a martini, not a bowl of Wheaties), turns out to be quite pornographic in parts as well, both in Vonnegut’s doodles and in his descriptions of certain unmentionables. He writes about these things very matter-of-factly, as if he were reading an instruction book to a parakeet, but his tone does little to diminish its shock value.

So why read it? Or at least, why finish it? I guess I have two reasons, but both are a bit weak. First, I was curious how Dwayne and Kilgore would eventually collide, and when Kurt made an appearance inside his own book, I just had to see what was going to happen. Second, and more purposefully, Vonnegut’s books are a window into the soul of the King of Pessimistic Humanism, and that can be a helpful glimpse at times. But truthfully, too much of that would just make me ill. Even though I own all his books, I think I could only handle about one Vonnegut every 2 years, which has generally been my diet anyways. So read it if you like, but there’s definitely better books out there to waste your time on.

© 2015 E.T.

 

[Current book list for Biblio-deca – 2015 (in no particular order):

  • Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell
  • Rat King by James Clavelle
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  • War by Sebastian Junger
  • The Bridge at Toko-Ri by James Michener
  • The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg
  • The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux]
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3 Responses to Book Review: “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut (1973)

  1. Pingback: I Give Up: “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien | Elliot's Blog

  2. Pingback: Book Review: “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming (1953) | Elliot's Blog

  3. Pingback: I Give Up Book Review: “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954) | Elliot's Blog

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