Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut

“Dwayne’s real mother was a spinster school teacher who wrote sentimental poetry and claimed to be descended from Richard the Lion-Hearted, who was a king. His real father was an itinerant typesetter, who seduced his mother by setting her poems in type. He didn’t sneak them into a newspaper or anything. It was enough for her that they were set in type.

She was a defective child-bearing machine. She destroyed herself automatically while giving birth to Dwayne. The printer disappeared. He was a disappearing machine.”

Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t know what to do with you.

Breakfast of Champions is a confusing book. If you’ve read Vonnegut before, this probably won’t surprise you. Over half the narrative is devoted to everyone’s favourite fictional sci-fi writer, Kilgore Trout. The other main character is Dwayne Hoover, a successful Pontiac dealer on the drink of insanity, who is driven over the edge by one of Trout’s books.

This book calls out American culture on so many levels, it makes your head spin (and just because we’re not Americans doesn’t mean we are exempt). There’s also this delightfully confusing bit where the author actually enters the narrative, but you’re not sure if this Philboyd Studge is just another Vonnegut character, or if it’s Vonnegut himself merely calling himself by another name.

I still don’t know what to make of Breakfast of Champions — but don’t take that to mean the book isn’t good. It’s brilliant. Like Dwayne Hoover, I’m beginning to suspect this world is populated by mere robots and I am the only being with free will… or perhaps I’m a robot too, programmed to read books and write reviews and question my world view. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

“His situation, insofar as he was a machine, was complex, tragic, and laughable. But the sacred part of him, his awareness, remained an unwavering band of light.

And this book is being written by a meat nachine in cooperation with a machine made of metal and plastic… And at the core of the writing meat machine is something sacred, which is an unwavering band of light.

At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light.”

XO

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