Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Phew, it has been a LOOONG time since I've read Vonnegut. I mean "classic" Vonnegut. It feels good to be back!
I mean no offense to his most recent work, but it just doesn't compare with what he put out from about the '60s through to the '80s. It's all good stuff. I mean, I've read about a dozen books of his and I don't recall a true stinker in the lot. But if I'm going to recommend "a Vonnegut" to the interested and uninitiated, it's going to be something like Breakfast of Champions from 1973.
This chuckle-full and sometimes hilarious tour de force of satirical wit is a razor-sharp criticism of humanity's worst traits: its greed, its pure and unadulterated avarice, its lack of a moral compass...
Ah, that last one is a tricky one. Vonnegut was no saint and he doesn't expect anyone else to be. However, a little decency and compassion would go a long way. Jesus fucking Christ, Vonnegut seems to say in just about every one of his books, can't we all stop acting like shits for second?!
I won't try to describe the plot of Breakfast of Champions. The plot is seldom the point in a Vonnegut novel. Oh sure, things happen, after a fashion. But it's more about people and ideas, and people with ideas, for better or worse.
I will however say that this book is a good starting point - not a necessary one, but a good one - from which to begin a Vonnegut reading journey. His recurring character, the strange and often estranged author Kilgore Trout is fully explained here, much more so than in other books in which he makes an appearance, at least in the ones I've read. In fact, many of the theories and rules of Vonnegut's world, his parallel universe, if you will, are laid out in this one, so I highly recommend starting here. Then again, you won't go wrong starting elsewhere. Just start.
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