Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday

4.3 245
by Kurt Vonnegut

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In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.  See more details below


In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Marvelous . . . [Vonnegut] wheels out all the complaints about America and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful and lovable.”—The New York Times

“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist.”—Time

“Free-wheeling, wild and great . . . uniquely Vonnegut.”—Publishers Weekly

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
You have to hand it to Kurt Vonnegut Jr. In his eighth novel, Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday, he performs considerable complex magic. He makes pornography seem like any old plumbing, violence like lovemaking, innocence like evil, and guilt like child's play. He wheels out all the latest fashionable complaints about America--her racism, her gift for destroying language, her technological greed and selfishness--and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful, and lovable, all at the same time. He draws pictures, for God's sake--simple, rough, yet surprisingly seductive sketches of everything from Volkswagens to electric chairs. He weaves into his plot a dozen or so glorious synopses of Vonnegut stories one almost wishes were fleshed out into whole books. He very nearly levitates.
— The New York Times

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Random House Publishing Group
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7.92(w) x 5.14(h) x 0.81(d)
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Dwayne was a widower. He lived alone at night in a dream house in Fairchild Heights, which was the most desirable residential area in the city. Every house there cost at least one hundred thousand dollars to build. Every house was on at least four acres of land.

Dwayne's only companion at night was a Labrador retriever named Sparky. Sparky could not wag his tail—because of an automobile accident many years ago, so he had no way of telling other dogs how friendly he was. He had to fight all the time. His ears were in tatters. He was lumpy with scars.

Dwayne had a black servant named Lottie Davis. She cleaned his house every day. Then she cooked his supper for him and served it. Then she went home. She was descended from slaves.

Lottie Davis and Dwayne didn't talk much, even though they liked each other a lot. Dwayne reserved most of his conversation for the dog. He would get down on the floor and roll around with Sparky, and he would say things like, "You and me, Spark," and "How's my old buddy?" and so on.

And that routine went on unrevised, even after Dwayne started to go crazy, so Lottie had nothing unusual to notice.

Kilgore Trout owned a parakeet named Bill. Like Dwayne Hoover, Trout was all alone at night, except for his pet. Trout, too, talked to his pet.

But while Dwayne babbled to his Labrador retriever about love, Trout sneered and muttered to his parakeet about the end of the world.

"Any time now," he would say. "And high time, too."

It was Trout's theory that the atmosphere would become unbreathable soon.

Trout supposed that when the atmosphere became poisonous, Bill would keel over a few minutes before Trout did. He would kid Bill about that. "How's the old respiration, Bill?" he'd say, or, "Seems like you've got a touch of the old emphysema, Bill," or, "We never discussed what kind of a funeral you want, Bill. You never even told me what your religion is." And so on.

He told Bill that humanity deserved to die horribly, since it had behaved so cruelly and wastefully on a planet so sweet. "We're all Heliogabalus, Bill," he would say. This was the name of a Roman emperor who had a sculptor make a hollow, life-size iron bull with a door on it. The door could be locked from the outside. The bull's mouth was open. That was the only other opening to the outside.

Heliogabalus would have a human being put into the bull through the door, and the door would be locked. Any sounds the human being made in there would come out of the mouth of the bull. Heliogabalus would have guests in for a nice party, with plenty of food and wine and beautiful women and pretty boys—and Heliogabalus would have a servant light kindling. The kindling was under dry firewood—which was under the bull.

Trout did another thing which some people might have considered eccentric: he called mirrors leaks. It amused him to pretend that mirrors were holes between two universes.

If he saw a child near a mirror, he might wag his finger at a child warningly, and say with great solemnity, "Don't get too near that leak. You wouldn't want to wind up in the other universe, would you?"

Sometimes somebody would say in his presence, "Excuse me, I have to take a leak." This was a way of saying that the speaker intended to drain liquid wastes from his body through a valve in his lower abdomen.

And Trout would reply waggishly, "Where I come from, that means you're about to steal a mirror."

And so on.

By the time of Trout's death, of course, everybody called mirrors leaks. That was how respectable even his jokes had become.

In 1972, Trout lived in a basement apartment in Cohoes, New York. He made his living as an installer of aluminum combination storm windows and screens. He had nothing to do with the sales end of the business—because he had no charm. Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.

Dwayne Hoover had oodles of charm.

I can have oodles of charm when I want to.

A lot of people have oodles of charm.

Trout's employer and co-workers had no idea that he was a writer. No reputable publisher had ever heard of him, for that matter, even though he had written one hundred and seventeen novels and two thousand short stories by the time he met Dwayne.

He made carbon copies of nothing he wrote. He mailed off manuscripts without enclosing stamped, self-addressed envelopes for their safe return. Sometimes he didn't even include a return address. He got names and addresses of publishers from magazines devoted to the writing business, which he read avidly in the periodical rooms of public libraries. He thus got in touch with a firm called World Classics Library, which published hard-core pornography in Los Angeles, California. They used his stories, which usually didn't even have women in them, to give bulk to books and magazines of salacious pictures.

They never told him where or when he might expect to find himself in print. Here is what they paid him: doodleysquat.

They didn't even send him complimentary copies of the books and magazines in which he appeared, so he had to search them out in pornography stores. And the titles he gave to his stories were often changed. "Pan Galactic Straw-boss," for instance, became "Mouth Crazy."

Most distracting to Trout, however, were the illustrations his publishers selected, which had nothing to do with his tales. He wrote a novel, for instance, about an Earthling named Delmore Skag, a bachelor in a neighborhood where everybody else had enormous families. And Skag was a scientist, and he found a way to reproduce himself in chicken soup. He would shave living cells from the palm of his right hand, mix them with the soup, and expose the soup to cosmic rays. The cells turned into babies which looked exactly like Delmore Skag.

Pretty soon, Delmore was having several babies a day, and inviting his neighbors to share his pride and happiness. He had mass baptisms of as many as a hundred babies at a time. He became famous as a family man.

And so on.

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Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye, Blue Monday 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 245 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone familiar with any of Kurt Vonnegut's works will not be disappointed by this classic satire. It features characters recurring in his novels - Kilgore Trout, Eliot Rosewater, and Rabo Karebakian - as well as fresh inventions, whose stories collude to turn any reader into a social cynic. The novel is narrated by Vonnegut, who directs his monologue at a reader unfamiliar with Earth and its customs. Because of that, he is compelled to frequently illustrate his point - whether it be with a sketch of a vagina or an electric chair - to great comic effect. Early in the book he states that he needs to empty his mind of useless clutter, which he would seem to do quite effectively, though what may seem to be a random outburst will be, without fail, a cleverly constructed social criticism. Readers familiar with works such as Slaughterhouse V will be pleasantly surprised to find that they already have a fair bit of background on Kilgore Trout, the protagonist, as well as Eliot Rosewater, whom one may remember shares a hospital room with Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse. Kilgore becomes quite lovable in this installment. One of the more profound scenes occurs at the very end and features Vonnegut as character as well as narrator. He and Trout have an excellent dialog that I shall not spoil here. It is sufficient to say that it caps a very good point Vonnegut makes throughout the book regarding the control people have over their own actions. In summary, an excellent read.
Nellix More than 1 year ago
Breakfast of Champions was a book by Kurt Vonnegut. That's really all I have to say about the book to make it what it is. It's impolite, but acceptable. It was meant to be both at the same time, and that's what it was. It was everywhere but on the page. There wasn't for one second when I was reading that book that I thought of it as a book. I thought of it as an idea, or a million different ideas, which I believe is the way that the book was meant to be taken. A different view for every subject that has a view. What lots of people seem to say about this book is that it is a symbol for something. A story about the tragedies of war, of mental illness, about how life can change you, about coincidence. People try and find meaning in this book. They call it literature, and give it importance, and give it fancy titles and symbolism that is everything they think it is, that they want it to be, much like the lives of people in Midland City. I believe this book was intended for everyone to read, if not for everyone to understand. It gives perspectives that only someone like Kurt Vonnegut would think of. That being, no one else. The titles 'Breakfast of Champions' and 'Goodbye, Blue Monday' both fit the story if you read it. Seemingly interesting as well, to those who don't know the story behind it. Part of which is what made me pick it up. The way that Kurt puts himself in his books to further the story is what gives them his personal style, and which is particularly evident in this novel of his. He isn't afraid to stray from the conventions of rules of grammar, or typical book structure. A drawing here and there to further illustrate the point gives it not meaning but voice. Conventions aside; This story, this book, this philosophy gives thought, gives a closer look to aspects of daily life which most don't think about. And for those who aren't trying to look to deep into the pages, but just looking for something to pass the time, it's still a good read.
Rutger-B More than 1 year ago
Breakfast of Champions is a great book for Vonnegut lovers. It differentiates itself from his other books, and because of this it may be difficult to get into for those who don't admire Mr. Vonnegut. The reader can sense the care and emotion Vonnegut put into this novel as opposed to his others, such as Cat's Cradle. He clearly states his views and thoughts on society, art, and more specifically on literature. His life experiences have a healthy influence on this novel, but to make things more personal he gives his opinions on those experiences. You don't have to agree with them to appreciate this book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Vonnegut.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first Vonnegut novel... loved it... addictive. I read it through so maany times. Hard to follow at times... but probably because I read it too young (16) but still... Great! ^_^
sakabako More than 1 year ago
The plot is very unique, but not one that I will find myself thinking about for a long time like Cat's Cradle. The paragraphs are not indented and it can be hard to tell when one ends and the next begins, especially at large text sizes. There are very few misrecognized characters, Dr,no instead of Dr?no being the only consistent one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A naïve and spiritual yet satirist and explicit masterpiece, Kurt Vonnegut¿s Breakfast of Champions exploits the pitfalls and shortcomings of American society through the offbeat observations, colorful journeys, and rhetorical questions of ill-minded ¿machines¿, and of Vonnegut himself. Issues ranging from racism, sexism, intolerance, and profanity to pollution, ignorance, capitalism, imperialism, and jingoism all come to the surface as Vonnegut teaches us how to see the truth. Breakfast of Champions follows the unconventional lives of two men, a mentally-deteriorating ¿well-to-do¿ car salesman from an unknown Midwest town and an old, unorthodox writer who lives alone and ¿unknown,¿ as well as familiar characters parodied. Mysterious consequences (and an art fair) bring these two men to cross paths, as their journeys, and the people along the way, are deeply examined. Vonnegut beautifully constructs this impeccable tragedy of consequence and ¿adapting to chaos.¿
SurferJeff 10 months ago
I loved every word. A story about flawed people.
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Bethann2 More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, funny & poignant book that should be required reading in every high school and college in America.  Vonnegut - who at turns sounds like a pretentious 15-year-old prodigy and Philboyd Studge, is nonetheless one of the best writers you'll ever encounter. 
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Skidrow82 More than 1 year ago
Check it out, it's hilarious, clever and irreverent. Almost every page will make you laugh.
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First Vonnegut book I read, wil always love it. Second favorite Vonnegut novel.
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WOW! Can't get enough of Vonnegut. Highly enjoyable. Laugh out loud funny with lots of satire. Vonnegut has a way of teaching without teaching. I will read all his books if I can find them. He is masterful with his black comedy.More please!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book i've read by Vonnegut and it definitely won't be my last!
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