Thursday, 18 November 2010

"Breakfast of Champions" by Kurt Vonnegut

Year of Publication: 1973
Number of Pages: 295 pages
Genre: Satire

Summary: Midland City, USA: Car salesman Dwayne Hoover is the wealthiest man in town. Charismatic, successful and a pillar of the community, Dwayne is pretty much a model citizen except for the fact that he is slowly going completely insane. After reading a book by obscure but prolific science-fiction novelist Kilgore Trout, which he takes for the literal truth, Dwayne loses his mind completely. Meanwhile, Kilgore Trout himself is hitch-hiking across America on his way to Midland City for an Arts Festival.

Opinions: This novel constantly moves between the daily routine of the increasingly unbalanced Hoover and Trout's cross-country journey, while finidng time for numerous digressions, diversions, jokes, factoids and pot shots at almost anything that comes to mind. The ostensible plot of the novel is really nothing more than an excuse for Vonnegut to unleash savage and at times hilarious satirical attacks at life in general and American life in particular. The book is written in a faux-naive style almost as if the narrator is trying to explain life on Earth to a group of alien schoolchildren. Vonnegut doesn't pull any punches and the satire is frequently harsh and cruel, but there is also a strong vein of compassion. Vonnegut's voice in the book comes across as that of a man who deeply loves humanity but is always disappointed by it. The novel is consistently entertaining and frequently very funny. The prose is punchy and conversational making it easy to get into, and is enlivened by Vonnegut's peppering the novel with numerous line drawings. The book may not be as good as some of Vonnegut's other works (such as Slaughterhouse 5), the author himself gave it a "C" grade, and it's cynicism may be off-putting to some readers, but this is still well worth checking it out.
It will make you laugh a lot and it will also make you think a lot.