Kurt Vonnegut is a wise, master of
comedic absurdist literature whose ideas are exemplified in his novel Breakfast
of Champions. That is to say that he is at his best during the novel Breakfast
of Champions. Oh he was good in Slaughterhouse-Five and Catís
Cradle but Breakfast of Champions takes the cake.
All of Mr. Vonnegut's books are elaborate jokes that still have meaning. In the introduction to Breakfast of Champions, Kurt says that Breakfast of Champions is a "fiftieth birthday present to himself". I also don't know of any author that could get away with making pictures of the most basic things as if we were little babies; this is Vonnegut's testament to the earth.
Even through all the comedy in the book there is a hidden sadness in the novel. Vonnegut is a troubled man, a veteran at war, with a definite case of depression. He even admits that the threat of "suicide is at the heart of the book". One of the main characters, Dwayne Hoover, wife "drinks Drano" and dies. This also hints to troubles when Kurt was younger. His mother also committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. After writing his depressing War novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt became a manic-depressive so he took magic little pills, Ritalin. From his Ritalin haze came the deep thoughts in his mind, Breakfast of Champions.
(The story of Breakfast of Champions is one the one of the breakdown of the high ranked person and the rocket speed rise of another. Sucessful car dealer Dwayne Hoover is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. His wife has sommitted suicide, his son has turned homosexual and heís just seeing things plus he thinks his mistress is after his money. Heís very paranoid.)
Breakfast of Champions is the end of an era
for Vonnegut. He is taking all the things in his mind and putting it on the
paper. A Spring-cleaning that Vonnegut does for the first time in his life, when
he is fifty. Thatís a long period of time, especially when you have a man like
Vonnegut that has been through so much. For a 200 page novel, itís a lot to
squish in but Vonnegut does it so greatly. His rich words, his hyperbolization,
and his felt tipped pictures of the most simple things make this the book I
would leave in a time capsule if I only had one choice.
Breakfast of Champions is an anti-novel protesting against dominating literary fiction theories of the last 100 years. Vonnegutís whole style goes against modern literature like his constant speaking directly to the reader and also veering off topic all the time. Plus his limited use of detail to make his book shorter is contrary to the style of many American writers in the last 100 years.
ĒVonnegut insists that he keeps his novels short so he can catch ďfuture presidents and senators and generalsĒ and pollute their minds with humanity.Ē People donít like to read long books, rather they like the short ones. Vonnegut thinks his ideas are important enough that future leaders will listen, and heís right. Many artists and writers get their inspiration from Vonnegut. I receive inspiration from his genius.
In Vonnegutís works, the characters are the puppets, and Vonnegut is the Puppet master plus the Creator of the World although his real life is very similar to many of the characters in the novel. He has the most similarities to his recurring character Kilgore Trout. What a great name that is. Kilgore is a crazy writer who writes and writes and writes but makes no money. The stories are out of this world, most of them dealing with the end of the world or planets with really weird people. Vonnegutís stories are too way out there, and sometimes unappreciated but many appreciate Breakfast of Champions.
A unique attribute of this novel is that Vonnegut destroys all the suspense in the novel by telling the ending of his story in the beginning. There is no secret, now all there is left is the story. He wants to the reader to focus on the characters and the ideas involved, not wondering what happens to the meaningless fictional characters. I find this very interesting. I many times find myself doing this, most people do, but I think I will take Vonnegutís approach from now on. Itís a better way to read a novel. In this novel, the characters donít get what they deserve. Only the evil Don Breedlove got what he deserved in the end. (Explain What? Why?) `
Vonnegut believes that people read about fictional characters, then they emulate them. Fictional characters are meant to be fictional. Vonnegut says (there) this is the reason for war, a convenient ending to any novel. He said he would write about life: every character and fact is equally important. Vonnegut would ďbring chaos to orderĒ rather than order to chaos. Vonnegut has the best idea of us all, endings arenít necessary, all books should end in ETC. This is how Breakfast of Champions ends, making it the perfect ending put into play.
The pictures in Breakfast of Champions are poking fun of pop art sketches of the time. Vonnegut is packaging his novel like a box of cereals AKA Wheaties. The pictures were my favorite part of the book, Iíve looked through the book just by looking at the pictures. The novel does not make sense this way but itís a way to get some good laughs.
Most of what I've been saying in this essay is not my own thoughts. Although I do agree with most of it, I have some thoughts of my own. Some of my thoughts were also of the ones previously expressed. Mr. Vonnegut's method to madness is through confusion. His book is a whirlpool of ideas, which are put into a pot mixed then spilled onto a piece of paper. His tangents in the novel can go on for 10-20 pages at a time. You have to read on hoping to get to the continuation of the point of the novel and just when you forget about what he was talking about, bam, he goes back to his previous thought.
He also tries to confuse the reader with his pictures. In the middle of an idea he'll make a big, awkward drawing, most closely describable as a 3rd grade art project. That drawing is supposed to show parts of our being to someone who would find this book in the future on another planet, a legacy of the planet earth. (As) in the times of the cavemen, the only language that can be translated by us now is pictures. Pictures are historyís common language and Vonnegut uses it to make his book live on forever.
Another thought I have on these pictures is another idea on their distraction factor. He makes the pictures thick to draw your attention away from the words of the novel either through laughter or disbelief. Then when you back to what you were reading your progression has been stopped. He is using army tactics from his war days; we are his enemies, distractions are our stumbling block, and the goal is finishing the novel. We trek on through the woods of Vonnegut's mind, only to find more and more trees, and then there is a bear trap that snaps on our legs, slowing us down further. He does not want us to win the war, he wants the novel to last and hover in our minds forever, then he wins and we lose. I personally don't mind letting Mr. Vonnegut win because he deserves to win.
I have to admit that I did see the film version of this book and the results on film were not surprising. The film was a muddled piece of unintelligible garbage. It went back and forth. The director/screenwriter is just another victory for Vonnegut. Even though Mr. Rudolph made a valiant attempt, he lost, and there are no awards for the losers. This brings me back to another novel interpretation I saw called Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter is another strong willed writer that wrote a novel about a short period in time of his life on a trip to Las Vegas and I don't just mean trip as in traveling. He does massive amounts of drugs that cloud his mind but make for a great read. When this classic political commentary was turned into a film in 1998 starring Johnny Depp, the movie failed miserably because the film was just not watchable. Certain scenes were great but other scenes are just what were they thinking scenes. That's when the author gets the last laugh. When a movie is perfectly portrayed on screen, there was no necessity for a novel but when the book loses it's tightness and clarity in translation then it needed to be created in its original form.
Breakfast Of Champions is a story that had to be told in novel form, it needed to be written by Kurt Vonnegut, and everyone should read it because it is the masterpiece of contemporary American absurdist literature plus it's just a real funny book. Who couldn't use a laugh? Kurt Vonnegut is a master at his craft and Breakfast of Champions just proves it.