Book Cover
Breakfast of Champions


★ ★

TL;DR: My first Vonnegut book. Definitely a ride. Not sure I ‘got’ everything I was supposed to.

Plot

One of Kurt Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer named Dwayne Hoover is taking his fiction as truth.

  • Trout is invited to speak at a festival in Midland City, where Dwayne lives
  • Dwayne is becoming more and more mentally unstable
  • Dwayne reads a novel of Trout’s that explains to Dwayne that he is the only thing in the universe with true free will
  • Dwayne becomes unhinged and beats up a ton of people
  • Vonnegut inserts himself into the book and talks to Trout, telling Trout that he (Vonnegut) is the Creator of the Universe. Trout takes this in stride.

Written in short snippets, separated by three dots. Uses simple language.

Characters

  • Kilgore Trout: sci-fi writer
  • Dwayne Hoover: Midwest car dealer. Slowly going crazy.
  • Eliot Rosewater: rich man who sponsors Trout to speak at the Midland City Arts Festival
  • Harry LeSabre: secret transvestite, self-conscious about it, works for Hoover

Themes

  • war
  • sex
  • racism
  • success
  • politics
  • pollution
  • suicide

Snippets

Here was the core of the bad ideas which Trout gave Dwayne: Everybody on Earth was a robot, with one exception--Dwayne Hoover. (14)

As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.

Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.

And so on.

Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every personw ould be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done. (215)