Breakfast and the universe: Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” book review


Photo taken by Elizabeth Findley

Even though Vonnegut passed away in 2007, his novels still continue to amaze and cause great impact on readers. “Breakfast of Champions” is a great example of his long-lasting impression on literature.

As an avid booklover, I have gradually been easing my way into the many writings of the famed author Kurt Vonnegut. As many do, the first novel I picked up by Vonnegut was Slaughterhouse-Five which is a very well-received and famous anti-war novel about a man by the name of Billy Pilgrim and his experience with the war and time in general, and my overall thought after completing it went along the lines of, “Wow, this is really great. I want to read more”.

So naturally, as it was in the month of December, my next move was to ask for more of his books as Christmas presents and come Christmas Eve, I was gifted with Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. Now fast-forward to the later days of January when I was glancing at my bookshelf wondering what book I wanted to read next and on a whim decided to grab the latter of the two, Breakfast of Champions or alternatively titled, Goodbye Blue Monday!. What I did not know was that that book was going to be one of the greatest things I’ve ever read.

This novel, originally published in 1973, mainly follows the character of Kilgore Trout, who has appeared in a variety of other Vonnegut novels as well, who is a science-fiction writer who has written a multitude of books but has never received recognition for his works, much less fame. Much to his surprise, Kilgore receives an invitation to attend an arts festival and starts his journey to Midland City. His journey throughout the novel is leading up to his inevitable meeting with the other main character Dwayne Hoover. Dwayne Hoover is a character who is described as acting out due to the chemical imbalances inside his head. As the novel progress along, the reader witnesses Dwayne become increasingly more and more insane.

This novel looks at broad topics and themes such as racism, politics, and the value of human life while being told from Vonnegut’s famous honest and satirical voice. Because of these heavy topics, the story is extremely thought-provoking and while reading this novel, one can feel they are experiencing something truly great. Though the ideas presented in the story can be heavy, the reading experience is not. The text is humorous, sometimes even hilarious, there are small illustrations littered all throughout the novel, and the language is basic and accessible to someone of any reading level. The plot-line is enticing and practically forces the reader to keep turning the page.

Perhaps the most intriguing and exciting aspect of the book is the intense breaking of the fourth wall towards the last third of the book. As I was reading, it felt as though the linear plot-line was thrown out the window for a few pages albeit in a spectacular and mind-bending way. Vonnegut introduces himself as a character in his own world and interacts with his own made-up characters. This sort of storytelling and creativity is something I have never before witnessed in any sort of novel and is sure to leave any reader amazed and intrigued.

Upon first reading, I know for sure I have stumbled upon something truly spectacular and that it will take more than one read-through to start to fully comprehend and appreciate everything presented within this novel. All in all, this is a book I would highly recommend to anyone, especially those who appreciate uncommon and exciting forms of storytelling that discuss noteworthy topics.