Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Breakfast of Champions" by Kurt Vonnegut

Summary: Dwayne Hoover is a well-to-do car salesman who is about go to crazy.  His insanity will be set off by an encounter with Kilgore Trout, a prolific and completely unknown science-fiction writer who has, by chance, been invited to participate in the Arts Festival in Midland City.  In classic Vonnegut, these two men and other characters will meet and exist... and so on....

Musings: Although I continue to fail to "get" Vonnegut, I still quite enjoy his work.  No other book of his has fit together for me the way Slaughterhouse-Five did, but the novels are always stimulating, if nothing else.  I did like Breakfast of Champions better than Cat's Cradle (and much better than Hocus Pocus, which I couldn't even finish!) because it was more linear and the repetition served to enhance the narrative.  Breakfast of Champions also includes frequent drawings, which were fun.

But, alas, what to say about the story?  Vonnegut highlights the mundane by making commonalities seem new--explaining how mammals called chickens become Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken, for example.  The concept of people as robots, acting the way they are programmed to act (both literally and metaphorically), is repeated throughout the novel and also serves to emphasize humans' inability to act out of of self- and society-prescribed roles.  The continued emphasis on characters' races and male characters' uh--sizes--also play into the way in which we try to artificially categorize those we know.

Like all of Vonnegut's works, Breakfast of Champions is bizarre, profane, absurd, and very readable.  You're never bored and always left wondering.

***This book qualifies for the Books of the Century Reading Challenge.

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