Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye, Blue Monday

( 199 )

Overview

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.

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Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye, Blue Monday

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Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385334204
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 37,258
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.92 (w) x 5.14 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as “a true artist” (The New York Times) with Cat’s Cradlein 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.

Biography

Born in 1922, Vonnegut grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. His architect father suffered great financial setbacks during the Depression and was unemployed for long stretches of time. His mother suffered from mental illness and eventually committed suicide in 1944, a trauma that haunted Vonnegut all his life. He attended Cornell in the early 1940s, but quit in order to enlist in the Army during WWII.

Vonnegut was shipped to Europe, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and was captured behind enemy lines and incarcerated in a German prison camp. As a POW, he witnessed the firebombing of Dresden by Allied forces, an event of devastating magnitude that left an indelible impression on the young soldier.

After the war, Vonnegut returned home and married his high school sweetheart. In addition to two daughters and a son of their own, he and his first wife adopted three children orphaned in 1958 by the death of Vonnegut's sister Alice. (He and his second wife adopted another daughter.) The family lived in Chicago and Schenectady before settling in Cape Cod, where Vonnegut began to concentrate seriously on his writing. His first novel, the darkly dystopian Player Piano, was published in 1952 and met with moderate success. Three additional novels followed (including the critically acclaimed Cat's Cradle), but it was not until the publication of 1969's Slaughterhouse Five that Vonnegut achieved true literary stardom. Based on the author's wartime experiences in Dresden, the novel resonated powerfully in the social upheaval of the Vietnam era.

Although he is best known for his novels (a genre-blending mix of social satire, science fiction, surrealism, and black comedy), Vonnegut also wrote short fiction, essays, and plays (the best known of which was Happy Birthday, Wanda June). In addition, he was a talented graphic artist who illustrated many of his books and exhibited sporadically during his literary career. He died on April 11, 2007, after suffering irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Kurt Vonnegut
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 11, 1922
    2. Place of Birth:
      Indianapolis, Indiana
    1. Date of Death:
      April 11, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Read an Excerpt

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 199 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(112)

4 Star

(57)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 199 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2010

    Prime Vonnegut

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Everything Ever, and Nothing All At Once.

    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.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2010

    A Vonnegut lover's book

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    Whoa... what did I just read? Great!

    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! ^_^

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2006

    Brilliant!

    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.¿

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2013

    Very funny!

    Check it out, it's hilarious, clever and irreverent. Almost every page will make you laugh.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Ig wty . Yie

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    Vmg

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    A classic

    First Vonnegut book I read, wil always love it. Second favorite Vonnegut novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Great book

    This is the first book i've read by Vonnegut and it definitely won't be my last!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    .

    .

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  • Posted December 12, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This is classic Vonnegut. Funny, smart and unbound by the struct

    This is classic Vonnegut. Funny, smart and unbound by the structure of his own work. It's a work of a paradoxes, in some ways mocking American life, while simultaneously betraying a great fondness for it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2012

    Good Book...

    I enjoyed this book, however it wasn't my favorite of what I've read so far from him. I enjoyed Cat's Cradle, Player Piano & Galapagos better.

    If you like Kurt Vonnegut, his great humor & outlook on life, then you'll enjoy this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    My 1st Vonnegut Read - "Breakfast of Champions"

    Before reading this I had polished off a very heavy read on the genocide in Rwanda. (I don't know if I can ever take tgat friend's book suggestions again) It was heavy and disturbing and I came away needing something lighter and fun.

    Vonnegut delivered. It was incredible how he wove culture, humor, characters, places, and even himself into a very entertaining novel.

    Get this book. Read it. Do yourself the favor. Just don't wade through Sugar Creek.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Book

    Bad book

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2011

    ? Highly recommend. -

    Yes.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    god of books.

    I have come to realize that a comededic book about nothing but two men and their rollercoaster of a life can be the literary masterpiece of my life. Furthermore, if you do not read this you will be missing out not only on a literary masterpiece, but an amazing gallery of art. (see drawimg of butt hole) haha.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    Five stars.

    This book was AH-mazing! Vonnegut is a literary genius, and his works are genuine, funny, and witty. Be sure to read Slaughterhouse 5, as well!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great, stimulating, satirical read!

    This book is a definite classic that touches on many aspects and issues that were and still remain sensitive in American culture. With a witty and truthful voice, Vonngeut touches on key concepts in an original, satirical manner. He incorporates unusual, memorable characters from previous works and intertwines many lives to illustrate the issues of the generation.

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