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Breakfast of Champions


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ISBN13: 9780385334204
ISBN10: 0385334206
Condition: Standard
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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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cole h, March 29, 2012 (view all comments by cole h)
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut centers on the intriguing characters Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout. Trout is a writer, whose science fiction novels cause Hoover to go insane. Trout’s works highlight cultural arguments that parallel the novel itself. Vonnegut explores the state of society through the events that lead up to the meeting of Hoover and Trout. Overall, the author’s creative application of point of view, diction, and characters adequately portrays the societal flaws revealed within the novel.
Vonnegut implements a variety of methods to develop his argument. First, Vonnegut applies the point of view of the novel in order to further the themes concerning societal flaws. Utilizing a third-person narrative, Vonnegut provides an all-knowing perspective on our culture. “I was on par with the Creator of the Universe there in the dark in the cocktail lounge” (205). The previous passage displays the narrator’s fascinating perspective equivalent to that of a god. The perspective forces the reader to examine Vonnegut’s statements. The narrator shapes the plot of the novel himself, creating a clear parallel to Kurt Vonnegut. The author also employs clever word choice throughout Breakfast of Champions to point out the flaws of our modern society.
Vonnegut’s implementation of simple and blunt dialogue aids in revealing his societal statements to the reader. When outlining the hypocrisy of American politics, Vonnegut states, “It didn’t think that Earthlings who had a lot should share it with others unless they really wanted to, and most of them didn’t want to. So they didn’t” (13). The author bluntly describes the American stance on communism and sharing the wealth in the previous text. By using such word choice, Vonnegut clearly displays his ideas concerning the flaws of government. Along with word choice, the author also applies his characters in order to advance his theories on modern culture.
Vonnegut utilizes his characters to exemplify societal troubles. He places characters such as Hoover and Trout into certain situations in order to expose cultural issues such as racism. When Dwayne is asked to start a KFC restaurant, he replies, “’So you want me to open a Nigger joint’” (164)? Vonnegut formulates a theme of racism through many of the white characters within the novel. The previous passage illustrates the author’s clearly negative outlook on racism through Dwayne’s use of derogatory terms. Vonnegut also employs his characters to portray arguments on pollution and sex. For example, Patty Keene, a waitress, is “raped by a white gas-conversion unit installer” (143), again showing Vonnegut’s utilization of characters and plot to highlight the worst aspects of our society.
In total, Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions effectively displays perceptions concerning societal flaws such as racism, government, and pollution in an entertaining manner. Vonnegut furthers his ideas through the creative and direct application of point of view, word choice, and characters. Breakfast of Champions is a fantastic novel and an enjoyable read that will provoke awareness on many cultural issues.
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TheGreatDane, May 12, 2009 (view all comments by TheGreatDane)
For those who eat, sleep and breathe literature, Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions certainly lives up to its name. It is a brilliant piece of social commentary on modern America that continues to be relevant in the new millennium. He explores racism, pollution, and sexuality in a way that is both simple and telling. While his modern style may contain some interesting quirks, readers should not let this allow them to put the book back on the shelf.
Breakfast of Champions is a darkly humorous tale about the brief meeting of two men: the elderly science-fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the successful Pontiac salesman Dwayne Hoover. The novel covers Trout’s journey from New York City to Midland City to attend the opening of the Mildred Barry Memorial Center for the Arts in hopes of inspiring shock and disgust in the other attendees. Meanwhile, the reader gets to dip into the life of the “fabulously well-to-do” Dwayne Hoover, a resident of Midland City, as he goes completely insane. Vonnegut exposes the readers not only to the oddities of these two men, but also indulges in explaining the details of other seemingly minor characters such as Dwayne’s son George “Bunny” Hoover, a waitress named Patty Keene, and a young doctor named Cyprian Ukwende. In the end, all of these characters are linked by Hoover’s insanity-driven attack. Despite its fractured appearance, the novel’s structure actually helps to explain the themes and ideas of the novel.
While the novel appears to be full of random tangents and Sharpie doodles, Vonnegut actually uses these to highlight the ridiculous and shallow aspects of American society. For instance, “A Pyramid was a sort of huge stone tomb which Egyptians had built thousands and thousands of years before…” (112) followed by a simple, two-toned drawing of three pyramids. While this may seem both irrelevant and unnecessary, it is actually very clever in context. The drawing is in reference to a shipping truck with “Pyramid” written on the side simply because the owner “liked the sound of it”. The cartoon helps show how people do not pay attention to context or details; they act on impulse and without logic. The doodle is not only telling, its simplicity adds humor to the situation instead of being outright critical of American culture.
Vonnegut also covers a number of modern social issues in the novel, one being racism. Vonnegut plainly points out racial discrimination and preconceptions without worrying about what is politically correct. For example, “Dwayne asked a white workman how many horsepower drove the machine. All the workers were white. ‘We call it The Hundred Nigger Machine,’ said the workman. This had reference to a time when black men had done most of the heavy digging in Midland City” (150). Here, Vonnegut does not hesitate to use a potentially offensive word like “nigger” to illustrate the workmen’s feelings of superiority. Instead of trying to cover up an embarrassing part of American history or pretending that racism is gone, Vonnegut exposes it plainly and without frills. His honesty leaves the reader unable to avoid racism and forces them to examine whether or not it is present today.
Another social issue Vonnegut points out is pollution. People’s careless attitude is extraordinarily obvious in Breakfast of Champions. It is very matter-of-factly stated that “Trout marveled at how recently white men had arrived in West Virginia, and how quickly they had demolished it – for heat. Now the heat was all gone, too – into outer space, Trout supposed” (125). In the novel, commenting of the condition of West Virginia feels irrelevant but is very telling of the attitude Vonnegut perceives society to have. Just as Kilgore Trout is not troubled by walking through a polluted stream that covers his feet in plastic, few people stop to think about what has been done to the land. The carelessness of society is exposed leaving the readers to decide for themselves how to feel about it and what to do.
While Breakfast of Champions is an extremely entertaining satire, it is certainly not for people who are conservative or easily offended. For instance, Vonnegut points out America’s preoccupation with sex by going on tangents about the penis size of various male characters as well as the body measurements of the female characters. He even goes so far as to briefly discuss the presence of “wide open beavers” in pornographic novels, complete with a sketch to illustrate the difference between the animal and the body part. The pervasiveness of sex in American thought and media is made abundantly clear, but for a reader that cannot look past this type of content to see the commentary, this is not the book for them.
Breakfast of Champions is a smart and interesting read that comments on many different aspects of modern American society. While its content may not appeal to more conservative readers, it is the perfect choice for any person that enjoys dark comedy and great satire.
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Caleb.hickenlooper, January 25, 2008 (view all comments by Caleb.hickenlooper)

Breakfast of Champions, in its simplest form, is the story of a very unbalanced car salesman named Dwayne Hoover who, after reading a science fiction novel by the poor, lonely, eccentric, and extremely prolific writer, Kilgore Trout, becomes convinced that he is the only real human being on earth. It is a very simple story and can only account for about half of the pages of this “novel”.
The rest of the book is devoted to various tangents, rambles, and other forms of drool (easily recognized by his unique arrows) that seem to be intended to be either profound and insightful, or shockingly perverted and explicit. Whatever they’re intended purpose, these little side-shows, because of their content: penis measurements, descriptions of pornography, and a list of activities in the average prisoner’s sex life, (including gay oral and anal sex, as well as cow raping) are inarguably memorable. (I already forgot the ones that were supposed to be profound.(I’m pretty sure there was a decent one about white men “colonizing America”)). In order to further imprint his book on your mind, Vonnegut draws pictures, always preceded by the phrase “It looked like this:” Again, some, such as the electric chair, were somewhat profound, but most were either pointless (Goodbye blue Sunday?), or disgusting (Assholes and “Beavers”), or both.
In his defense, his writing is sometimes clever, for example, I loved the way he put himself into his own story, but it is not naturally entertaining. It seems to me that he is trying desperately to be insightful and culturally relevant, but he comes out seeming just scatter-brained. There is no unifying point to the story. It ends very randomly with the Author “setting his characters free”, after making them all very poor, very confused, very miserable, or very dead, or all four at the same time. Hopefully this can be taken as a promise that he will never write another book like this “novel”, ever again.
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Product Details

Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr.
Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr.
New York :
Humorous Stories
American fiction (fictional works by one author)
Science fiction
Science fiction -- Authorship -- Fiction.
Humorous fiction
Science fiction -- Authorship.
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
no. 5
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.01x5.29x.86 in. .61 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Breakfast of Champions Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Delta - English 9780385334204 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

After Slaughterhouse Five came out in 1969, Kurt Vonnegut entered a long period of depression and swore he would never write another novel. Fortunately he was lying, and in 1973, out came Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye Blue Monday (the subtitle alluding to his fog lifting). Four years of pent-up Vonnegut humor spilled out onto the page. Breakfast of Champions is Vonnegut's scathing satire and brilliant doodling at their peak. (If you've ever wondered what an asshole looks like up close, this is the book for you.) It is, as the author notes, in no way intended to disparage General Mills or its fine products.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Vonnegut gives us a tale of madness in his usual loopy, 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 an amusing bonus.

"Staff Pick" by ,

According to Kurt Vonnegut, "The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable." In one hilarious, heart-wrenching, absurdist, wildly imaginative novel after another he did just that for countless readers, making life a little more bearable — not to mention a lot more fun! Breakfast of Champions may be my favorite simply because it was my introduction to Vonnegut's weird way with a story. But in his off-kilter, savagely funny approach he digs down and reveals something much deeper and more human. I come back to it every few years — and love it every time.

"Synopsis" by , In this vintage Vonnegut novel, aging writer Kilgore Trout finds to his horror that a car dealer is taking his fiction as truth.
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