Cave's Reviews > Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
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May 06, 12

bookshelves: fiction, america
Read in May, 2012

After having spent the day plowing through Breakfast of Champions, my first novel by Kurt Vonnegut, what strikes me the most is his authorial voice: Playful, funny, sane, warm, moral, and humane. There’s anger as well – a lot of it – but it’s tempered by sadness. This is all the more apparent as Vonnegut runs down the laundry list of atrocities committed by humanity against humanity. But because the book is so buoyed by humor, there’s a sense of hope by the novel’s end that change is at your fingertips, all you must do is reach out and take it.

The plot involves the chance meeting between pulp science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and used car dealer Dwayne Hoover and the violence that erupts from said meeting. Vonnegut fills in the spaces with commentary ranging from art to criminal conspirator acts by corporations (such as pollution) to human rights violations to the concept of freewill. Vonnegut even steps in later as a peripheral character – nothing short of Creator of the Universe, of course.

The book is funny, even when stuck on annoying, tedious tics like cataloguing the size of every male character’s penis, both in length and diameter. Even the illustrations sprinkled throughout get tiresome. This is perhaps because it peaked early with its crude rendition of an asshole (literally a drawn asterisk) and a vagina.

Despite everything that threatened to sink Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut is able to pull it all off with his consistent tone. Part of that is how he approached the descriptions, complaints, histories and transgressions of America like it was a science fiction novel itself. So the descriptions of slavery come through with both a sense of wonder and disgust that humanity would allow such great crimes against humanity. In this way, Vonnegut comes off like a warm, funny, foul-mouthed grandfather. And every time he speaks my breath catches because I know my grandmother will bark a warning. When she stays silent, my grandfather and I share a clandestine grin, knowing we both just got away with something special.
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