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Monday, May 25, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut: Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of ChampionsBreakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

THere are a large number of people who aren't too keen on Vonnegut, and for reasons that I can easily understand. On one end Vonnegut is a science fiction/speculative fiction master. He was a moral force, so much so that when speaking of war in his masterpiece, Slaughterhouse Five, he said, "there is nothing intelligent than can be said about war."


That lone sentence is so powerful and provocative it hurts. Vonnegut says there, in a single sentence, what we all wish to say of violence, destruction, death, and hate. He does it so simply and so easily, as if that were the only thing to say.

Yet, on the other hand we have Vonnegut as the postmodernist. The man who plays with form and structure. The man who flashes from character to character, exposing details about each of them and laying it all bare.

This second side is the one that alienates people.

To many readers Vonnegut seems to be pretentious and nonsensical, yet one need only look at this work or Slaughterhouse Five to see just how important this style of postmodernism is.

Firstly, I will say this. When Vonnegut writes of a car salesmen he does so, in part, from experience. It is because of this that we can feel the realism, the pressures of the world and of society that so press on this man.

Now, Vonnegut is in this story is God. This may seem like an egotistical stance to take, yet, what are authors if not Gods?

It is because of this singular concept we get Vonnegut's brand of postmodernism. He is not merely recounting events and allowing them to be revealed through the actions of the characters, as we are so often accustomed. Instead, he is the creator himself, the one that knows the inner workings of their minds. He knows their past and their future and yet he is condemned only to watch.

This is equal parts genius and comedic, a thing that can be said of much of Vonnegut's works.

Yet another theme at work here is the that, when facing ourselves in the mirror-or leaks-we have only ourselves to face. We are not seeing a reflection but another version of ourselves, one that reflects us. Thus, when Vonnegut breaks the barriers of his world and asks of himself, "You're afraid you'll kill yourself like your mother, aren't you?" He has no chance but to answer, "yes."

Vonnegut's work is one that examines the human condition at its strangest and worst. He reflects us as we are and as we fear we will become and though there was a narrative drag in the story around the middle, this story is all about reflection and how we much be honest with ourselves. And so again, when the author confronts Kilgore Trout and asks him what he desires, he has no choice but to say, "to be young again."

View all my reviews or buy the book here: Breakfast of Champions: A Novel

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