Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday

by Kurt Vonnegut


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385334204
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/11/1999
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 32,381
Product dimensions: 7.92(w) x 5.14(h) x 0.81(d)
Lexile: 930L (what's this?)

About the Author

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 Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.

Date of Birth:

November 11, 1922

Date of Death:

April 11, 2007

Place of Birth:

Indianapolis, Indiana

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Cornell University, 1940-42; Carnegie-Mellon University, 1943; University of Chicago, 1945-47; M.A., 1971

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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Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye, Blue Monday 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 284 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! ^_^
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.¿
Allovertheboard on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Described the "consensus" view of communism as "sharing", conveniently ignoring the 100 million dead that, if they had a chance to rebut, surely would have. Comes across as a dated, hippy flashback. You can almost smell the Patchouli oil.
fig2 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Vonnegut gives us a tale of madness in his usual loopy and hilarious style. Why not throw in a little art, racism, economic disparity and environmentalism? But beware: not all is lightness and satire here. Vonnegut can be as dark as he is funny. His own drawings are a bonus.
5hrdrive on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Although I didn't care for this nearly as much as some of his other works, I must give Mr.Vonnegut credit for one thing he has Kilgore Trour say. When asked if he fears the future, Kilgore says, "it is the past which scares the bejesus out of me." That line skewered me and was worth the price of the book.
TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing 11 months ago
sooo good and doesn't everybody know it. my favorite Vonnegut. and hey, the movie with Bruce Willis is actually really good. it's an 90's interpretation of the book. worth checking out.
aangela1010 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I liked the drawings in this book. I enjoyed this more than Slaughterhouse.
shadowofthewind on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Best passages:I think I am trying to make my head as empty as it was when I was born onto this damaged planet fifty years ago.I suspect that this is something most white Americans, and nonwhite Americans who imitate white Americans, should do. The things other people hae put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are offten useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head. I have no culture, no humane harmony in my brains. I can't live without a culture anymore.So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two.I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. Whene I wasa boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent duringg the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden. Silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.p 15.1492The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already livingg full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them. p. 18Here was the core of bad ideas which Trout gave to Dwayne: Everybody on Earth was a robot, with one exception--Dwayne Hoover.Of all the creatures in the Universe, only Dwayne was thinking and feeling and worrying and planning and so on. Nobody else knew what pain was. Nobody else had any choices to make. Everybody else was a fully automatic machine, whose purposee was to stimulate Dwayne. Dwayne was a new type of creature being tested by the Creator of the Universe.Only Dwayne Hoover had free will.Trout did not expect to be believed. He put the bad ideas into a science-fiction novel, and that was where Dwayne found them. The book wasn't addressed to Dwayne alone. Trout had never heard of Dwayne when he wrote it. It was addressed to anybody, in effect, "Hey--gues what: You're the only create with free will. How does that make you feel? And so on.It was a tour de force. It was a jeu d'espirit.But it was mind poison to Dwayne.It shook up Trout to realize that even he could bring evil into the world--in the form of bad ideas. And, after Dwayne was carted off to a lunatic asylum in a canvas camisole, Trout became a fanatic on the importance of ideas as causes and cures for diseases. But nobody would listen to him. He was a dirty old man in the wilderness, crying out among the trees and underbrush, "Ideas or the lack of them can cause disease!"Kilgore Trout became a pioneer in the field of mental health. He advanced his theories disguised as science-fiction. He died in 1981, almost 20 years after he made Dwayne Hoover so sick.He was then recognized as a great artist and scientist. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences caused a monument to be erected over his ashes. Carved in its face was a quotation from his last novel, his two-hundred-and-ninth novel, which was unfinished when he died. The monument looked like this:Kilgore Trout 1907-1981"We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane"p.23p172¿I now give you my word of honor,¿ he went on, ¿that the picture your city owns shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal¿the ¿I am¿ to which all message
jwmiller5 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
One of my favorite Vonnegut novels (to date).
reblacke on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Vonnegut proves again he is one of the best.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing 11 months ago
If I were an author, I would find it very difficult to write a book that could be summed up as "Life is absurd." Because the plot and characters and situations themselves necessarily end up being absurd and meandering and not much fun to read. And that's how it is with Breakfast of Champions.If you liked J. Alfred Prufrock, you will love both Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover. Foils for one another, Kilgore is a struggling sci-fi writer and Dwayne is an unhinged widowed cars salesman. Each reacts in his own way to the desperation of the absurdity of life - Kilgore takes it more in stride and becomes an antagonist to the rest of the world, Dwayne ends up going on a rampage. It would be antithetical to the book to have too direct a plot, so it doesn't. Instead it's a slice of life type narrative, with situations all referring back to absurdity and pointlessness of life. Or, as Trout puts it, "I won't know myself until I find out whether *life* is serious or not. It's *dangerous,* I know, and it can hurt a lot. That doesn't necessarily mean it's *serious.*"
g0ldenboy on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Prior to Breakfast of Champions, my exposure to Vonnegut was limited to a short story I'd read in middle school named "Harrison Bergeron." Though I cared little about literature then, I was engrossed by the style and message of that story, and my interest in Vonnegut has now been reignited, especially because Breakfast of Champions isn't even considered his best work. This book is crammed with so many creative ideas and stories that, had I not known it was written by the legendary Vonnegut, I would've assumed it was someone's singular novel. I'm not a fan of humor in literature, and I can't say Breakfast of Champions changed that, but it was still an entertaining, quick ride that induced many chuckles whilst proposing serious (albeit pessimistic and eccentric) answers to some of life's most interesting questions. Yes, the plot is tenuous and absurd, yet Vonnegut is at his best during his random divergences. Dwayne Hoover is a business mogul of decrepit Midland City. He's going insane. Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut's quirky alter-ego, is a sci-fi writer who doesn't get the respect he deserves. He's been called to Midland City for an arts festival. When the two meet, an eruption of sorts is bound to occur.Two elements make this even more distinct: Vonnegut's ink drawings and self-referential narration. Through simple but useful drawings, Vonnegut further enables himself to poke fun at how insane American culture and our goals have become. Only some of these criticisms are outdated, and even they are interesting to read. Moreover, I've not seen anything akin to Vonnegut's prominent role in the narration towards the end of the book, which compensates for the weak climax.Also deserving of a paragraph are the ingenious mini sci-fi stories Trout inspires. Many of them will no doubt be fleshed out by bored creative writing classes. Here's a snippet from one that exemplifies a, "tragic failure to communicate...A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing..."And yet, these are just a few examples of everything here. The scope of Vonnegut's sharp commentary is remarkable considering the length of the book, even if it's not particularly story-driven. I'm glad I took another dip with Vonnegut, whose writing remains fresh nearly forty years later. I'm beginning to understand why people were so sad when he passed away in 2007. This books affirms Vonnegut as a propulsive force in avant-garde literature. I only wish he were still around to give his take on the current state of the world.
bigorangemichael on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I have to admit I'm not a huge Vonnegut fan. But as a "reading snob" I feel like I should at least be more aware of his novels than I am. So, when I saw "Breakfast of Champions" as an audio book, I thought I'd give it a try. And I have to say that after listening to it and reading up a bit more on how the printed novel has cartoon illustrations, I think I may have missed a vital part of the reading experience. "Breakfast of Champions" is the story of two men on a random collision path. There are sci-fi elements here, but the story is more character driven than most. The sci-fi is there to service the story and isn't the focus of things. And while I usually enjoy character driven sci-fi novels, I did find this one to be a bit lacking. I may have to give it a try in print and see if that makes a difference
Nadnerb on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is my all time favourite book. A wonderful magical trip.
Magadri on LibraryThing 11 months ago
My second Vonnegut read. I was not in the least disappointed. I loved this book! It was absolutely insane.
kronos999 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I again decided to indulge in the Vonnegut as he uses humor and satire (and illustrations) directly aimed at American society. Dwayne Hoover, car salesman, is going insane and is destined to meet the science fiction novelist Kilgore Trout whose book will drive him over the brink. The style is basically bullet notes to present the events as tidbits of information. The buildup to the meeting of Dwayne, Mr. Trout and the author drives the reader forward very quickly. Brilliant, as always seems to be true for this author. He should be President of the United States.
santhony on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This was my first experience with Vonnegut, and as with many things unusual (like Cirque du Soliel), you are mesmerized. I'd never read anything like it, and I was smitten. I can't even tell you what it is about, but that is beside the point. After reading a few more Vonnegut efforts, it loses its originality and, like Cirque du Soliel, isn't as entertaining. This was the first for me, however, and as a result, gets five stars.
maggotbrain on LibraryThing 11 months ago
No mistaking it, this is a Vonnegut book. To describe a plot would be hard, as it really just tells the story that leads to a car salesman (and entrepreneur) going a bit bonkers and hitting every one in sight. The book isn't even about the getting to the conclusion either, although the author makes it very clear how all the different characters, themes, and circumstances interrelate.Vonnegut just decides to crowbar in his opinions and attitudes to just about everything, and ties all the threads of a story around it. At times very funny, nearly always dark and bitterly sarcastic, it could not be faulted for lacking attitude.However, that said,I found it the least enjoyable Vonnegut bookI have read thus far. It didn't have the ironic and farcical lunacy of Slaughterhouse, it lacked the epic story and twisted hilarity of Sirens of Titan, and trotted along without the same crafted structure of doom that runs through Cat's cradle. It has touches of all these things and a few more besides, but just didn't quite do any of them as well as I had hoped.And so on...
rossryanross on LibraryThing 11 months ago
What a madcap adventure! Kilgore Trout, arts festivals, car dealerships, and a man's loss of sanity. Hilarious.
twright3 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is one of the first titles anywhere hears associated with Vonnegut, and, in my limited knowledge of Vonnegut, I think that's a fine thing. It's a quintessential Vonnegut piece.
ldsmith1031 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A funny trek through the dangers of a creative mind.
BellaFoxx on LibraryThing 11 months ago
While I didn¿t like this book as much as the short stories, I would still recommend it. Kurt Vonnegut¿s `history¿ of the U.S. while on the surface `tongue in cheek¿ and rather simplistic, was quite accurate. He takes complex subjects and reduces them to the bare truth. In this book, everyone is as important as everyone else and we know everything about everyone. The book dips into bad chemicals (drugs?), pollution (cover up?), racism, suicide and pornography in the same manner as the history of the United States. It appears Mr. Vonnegut is making fun of people, while at the same time teaching us how to look below the surface, to see what is really happening around us.