Breakfast of Champions

by Kurt Jr. Vonnegut

Hardcover, 1973

Call number




Delacorte Press (1973), 295 pages


Fiction. Literature. HTML:Breakfast of Champions is vintage Vonnegut. One of his favorite characters, aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. The result 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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ellevee
Without a doubt one the greatest books ever written, and my personal favorite of the author's extensive body of work. Ostensibly about a science fiction writer with no future, and a car dealer who's losing his mind, this book in reality is about everything, nothing, and the space in between these
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Vonnegut touches on everything from mental illness to sex to cereal. There is a picture of a butthole in this book. There is a picture of the female naughty bits.

Vonnegut is among those rare, wonderful authors who can make you laugh at things that are unspeakably sad. He can find humor in suicide, war, and poverty. He is at the height of his considerable talent here - there is not a word out of place, or a sentence that feels extraneous.

The only downside in reading this book is realizing that he is not around to write any more.
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LibraryThing member countrylife
Breakfast of Champions = martini.
Tap-dancing and farting = alien communication.
Creator of the universe = author.
Wide open beavers = well, you know.
”And so on.”

There was a sign in my head while reading this. Here is what it said: Why are you reading this nonsense?

OK, so the description from my
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library says, “Breakfast of Champions is vintage Vonnegut. One of his favorite characters, aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. The result 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.”

I get it – it’s satire. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like the story. I didn’t like the silly science fiction tales thrown in via the writer character. I didn’t like any of the characters. My son loves Vonnegut, so I was glad to take the opportunity via the American Authors challenge to give him a try. But I am obviously not the reader for Vonnegut. For that reason, to my personal low opinion of it, I’ve added an extra star.
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LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
A weird, and wonderful novel! With lots of illustrations, that are also weird and wonderful! Science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and car salesman Dwayne Hoover are the two main characters who eventually cross paths in Midland City. It is a strange story, yet it contains powerful observations of
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the United States - its history, its political and social agendas (especially the plight of the African Americans) , and its declining environmental health. The story also mentions the length and width of all the male characters' penises. The author himself appears as a character toward the end of the book, though his "voice" is heard throughout. It is a bit unconventional, but I found that to be refreshing and entertaining. Goodbye Blue Monday! And so on.
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LibraryThing member Ron18
I've only read two Vonnegut books, and as this one is a bit of a 50th birthday exercise for KV to say goodbye to his characters (as Jefferson freed his slaves at age 50, apparently), my impression may not be an altogether true one. But it is this: Kurt Vonnegut only really writes one book, it gets
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new chapters from time to time, it is brilliantly different in that the perspective is a special sort of 4th wall meets omniscient narration.
I thought sections of BoC were beautifully mind-expanding. I became aware of how his work had influenced other writers I like (Phillip K Dick and Grant Morrison). If not everyone else... seriously - is any writer not a fan of KV? Probably, I'm just too lazy to google it.

The pacing, and variance of theme, are beautiful in Breakfast of Champions. Also, a little personally therapeutic, on the author's part (I assume - along with his suggestion) riffing on the subjects of emotion, depression, suicide, and paternal legacy.

The actual climax was dull compared to the build-up, I'm afraid. Otherwise I may have gone to 5 stars. Also, the idea that reading one KV book is such a similar experience to reading another is something that costs it a little charm for me. I like when an artist gives a different sort of picture, or variation enough to provoke you to keep walking in the gallery.

Fully enjoyable. Happy to have chosen it as my vacation read. Goes well with sand and waves and mostly naked people walking around like that's perfectly normal.
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LibraryThing member ozzer
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS is mainly a vehicle to showcase Kurt Vonnegut’s uniquely gentle satirical style. The plot is chaotic and pretty silly—in his preface, he tells the reader that the novel is “a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying
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fast”; the setting is hopelessly mundane and depressing—Midland City; the characters are deeply flawed and mostly recycled from previous works; and the narrative is filled with asides and crude drawings that seem cute but unnecessary. As my aside, Vonnegut once advocated for the elimination of the semi-colon, a convention I obviously have trouble adhering to.

So why are people attracted to this work? Mainly it is because of Vonnegut’s narrative voice. His worldview was often quite pessimistic, but his observations were always refreshing, spot on and unfailingly amiable. He addressed most of the absurdities and evils of American culture with characteristic deadpan humor. One can’t help but wonder what he would have made of the bizarre presidential campaign of 2016. Clearly, 50 years later, people seem to be waking up to some of the things that bothered Vonnegut in the 70’s, but whether we are up to the task of changing them seems to be doubtful.

There are far too many examples in the novel of Vonnegut’s jaundiced but accurate perceptions to cite them in any detail. You need to just let them flow over you as you read. Invariably, these observations provoke smiles, laughter and frequently downright awe. His scope was indeed prodigious, including racism, corporate greed, inequality, war, environmental degradation, materialism, sex, mental health, politics, history as myth, futility, derangement, free will, the inadequacy of fiction as a vehicle for change, and so it goes.

Vonnegut uses a hopeful metaphor of mirrors as “leaks” to a more rational reality. Notwithstanding his pessimistic view of our current reality as a bizarre wonderland, not unlike what Alice found on the other side of her looking glass, Vonnegut seemed to persist in a belief that kindness to other humans can be redemptive.
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LibraryThing member maggotbrain
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
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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 book
I 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...
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LibraryThing member fuzzy_patters
I found the book entertaining but self-indulgent. Vonnegut did not develop his characters enough. It seemed that the book was written more for himself than the reader, and this is coming from someone who typically loves Vonnegut's novels. I enjoyed it, but it was disappointing compared to
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Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle..
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LibraryThing member gbill
The story Vonnegut tells in Breakfast of Champions isn’t the most compelling, but his commentary on America is blistering, and just as dead-on in 2022 as it was in 1973.

First and foremost, he is upfront about the two monstrous sins in America’s past, genocide and slavery, and the hypocrisy of
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the country never fully owning up them, yet passing itself off as a virtuous beacon of freedom. How fantastic is it that nearly 50 years ago he was casting the “discovery” of America in 1492 in a very different light, calling it “the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them [other human beings].” “Color was everything,” in America, he says, meaning including the present day, and “The chief weapon of the sea pirates was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was much too late, how heartless and greedy they were.”

Vonnegut also comments on capitalistic greed and the country’s “every man for himself” attitude, resulting in extreme cruelty to other people and a destruction of the environment. There is a fossil fuel company called Rosewater in the book that strips the land and treats workers like animals, which reminded me of the real-world Duke Power. He points out the unfairness in the distribution of wealth, including those like Nelson Rockefeller who “owned or controlled more of the planet than many nations…his destiny since infancy.” On these points and others (racism, the patriarchy, commercialism) the book is still incredibly relevant today, which is as depressing as it is impressive.

Vonnegut also reveals a fair amount of pessimism about humanity as a whole, through his character Kilgore Trout believing that “humanity deserved to die horribly, since it had behaved so cruelly and wastefully on a planet so sweet.” He points out mankind’s inherent and dangerous tribalism when he says “Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, on order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with friends, in order to express enmity.” He was 51 when he wrote the book, in the period of life when it does get difficult to remain sanguine about the human race.

The book starts incredibly strong, but it meanders as it plays out, and Vonnegut inserting his own illustrations often didn’t add much. However, the references to his personal life, including his mother’s suicide and his own struggles with mental health, were touching though. All in all, definitely a good read.

Just one more quote, on America:
“The undippable [American] flag was a beauty, and the anthem and the vacant motto [E pluribus unum] might not have mattered much, if it weren’t for this: a lot of citizens were so ignored and cheated and insulted that they thought they might be in the wrong country, or even on the wrong planet, that some terrible mistake had been made. It might have comforted them some if their anthem and their motto had mentioned fairness or brotherhood or hope or happiness, had somehow welcomed them to the society and its real estate.”
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LibraryThing member 9days
Easily the funniest book I've ever read. Vonnegut's crude (but brilliant) doodles are the highlight. I couldn't turn a page without laughing my backside off.

If you've never read a deadpan account of a man's testicles being drawn up into his body for fear of a dog gnawing them off, you are seriously
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missing out.

My favorite of all his work. Brilliant.
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LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
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
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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.*"
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LibraryThing member Sheila1957
I hated this book. It made no sense. I have no idea what it was about. It is a literary Seinfeld.
LibraryThing member ragwaine
Absurd, no plot. Some cool stuff but nothing mind blowing. Slapstick.
LibraryThing member Magadri
My second Vonnegut read. I was not in the least disappointed. I loved this book! It was absolutely insane.
LibraryThing member fourteenerus
Meta-book. Turns into a rolling, rompous, wonderful book within a book where Vonnegut ponders about the creator and what it all means and then describes himself as the creator. He is the creator, of the book and all his characters and every action they do.

He makes their lives, and gives them props,
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everything he does he paints with a brush and you can see that he paints a very vivd picture.

A great book that’s a little wierd at first, but it turns out to be a fantastic read, nothing like I thought it would be. Typical Vonnegut.

Read again. Definitely.
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LibraryThing member bookishjoxer
I thought this was a quick yet very dry read. It read different than most other books I have read and The story was often kind of broken up to me. there was alot of irrelvant things talked about, but I still liked the book alot anyway
LibraryThing member petescisco
I recently reread this after Vonnegut's death. The last time I read it I think I was 15. It's still as funny, as quirky, and as fantastically politically incorrect as ever. I don't know if he could have published this today, given how uptight amerika has become. It's not a grand sweeping book, but
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a small, not very delicate satire that still hits its targets.
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LibraryThing member wendyrey
Interesting and clever - but I am not sure what it was about if anything
LibraryThing member Michael_Godfrey
It's 1972, remember. Authors are playing with the relationship between author as Creator and Creator as defunct. Gunther Grass, in Cat and Mouse (by memory - as I can't find my copy) flings the skies across the heavens in an act of authorial creativity at around the same time Vonnegut was calling
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Trout and Hoover ex nihilo. It makes a point, perhaps. Vonnegut makes many points in this romp. Some he makes well, others I sense he loses control of. He parodies much of the malaise of 1970s americana, though he overdoes penis size. We end up with escapism-with-meaning. Vonnegut can do better - but many have done worse.
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LibraryThing member stipe168
It's dense and filled with Vonnegut at some of his most verbose. But that's what bogs it down - too many ideas wrapped around a too-zany plot. Still, very clever postmodern writing techniques in this one. Many awesome drawings and quips abound, the less than stellar plot drowns it out. They say
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your favorite Vonnegut is usually the first one you read. This was my fourth... should be read by a fan, avoided otherwise.

i like this:
(big drawing of the number 1492)
"The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in
That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them. "
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LibraryThing member GigoloJane
Of all the Vonnegut books I've read, this is definitely my favorite. It's fantastic and hilarious and full of that wonderful Vonnegut satire that his fans have come to know and love. It's a classic and a great start for those who are new to the wonderful world of Kurt Vonnegut.
LibraryThing member zmobie
Intriguing, beautiful, and utterly confusing. That's about all I have to say.
LibraryThing member Allovertheboard
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.
LibraryThing member santhony
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
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originality and, like Cirque du Soliel, isn't as entertaining. This was the first for me, however, and as a result, gets five stars.
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LibraryThing member rozmarins
I suppose anyone knows this book, so I won`t repeat the plot. I liked the way Vonneguth tells stories, also in some places I got little but unsatisfied by his sudden change of story - his is swiftly switching between different subjects. One thing I liked the most, is his laughing about things other
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people take seriously.
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LibraryThing member JFBallenger
After the mastery of Slaughterhouse Five, the stale mannerisms here were a horrible disappointment.


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