My favorite GR review of this profound work of whimsy and farce: "A novel is a dead tree with words on it. Breakfast of Champions is a great dead tree with words on it."
Amen. It certainly ain't a waste of dead trees.
The immortal Kurt Vonnegut's seventh novel was a fiftieth-birthday-present-to-self, which is useful to know, as it's written in a style which he himself would like to see, I think, as opposed to his audience, and, I have no doubt, his publishers, as it's also full of his pop-art-style doodles, including the famous " * " one. I'll leave out the translation of that one.
The story herein, replete with the usual Kurt fodder of life, death, sex, war, poverty, industry, and, here, more overtly than in his other novels, racism, chronicles the lives and times of two eccentricities, Dwayne Hoover, a loony Pontiac dealer from Ohio, and the beloved fictional science fiction author, Kilgore Trout, a loony obscure writer who perplexingly achieves the fame which has long eluded him, despite his Isaac-Asimov-like body of work (the latter of which reportedly wrote some 500 novels). Suffice to say, however, the former was certainly NOT based on the latter.
As farcical and fantastical as this novel was, it admittedly wasn't one of my favorite Vonnegut novels. It's an amusing romp through Kurt's head, but it just didn't hit home as some of his other novels have. Perhaps that's due to the general lack of a central theme (other than insanity, it seems), particularity the overarching sense of tragedy and futility which we twisted souls have come to love about Kurt's usual novels. Don't get me wrong: it's definitely worth the read, but it's a bit more lighthearted than the norm, more a crazy-quilt, Jackson-Pollock-esque painting of a novel that meanders all over the place, often into the irreverent, but it's appealing in that it remains ever colorful and full of mystique.
It's also one of the first instances I can recall of Kurt engaging directly with his characters, specifically, the aforementioned Kilgore Trout, who has a Nobel Prize in medicine coming, I'm informed. Maybe the crazy is the point: it is, after all, the story of two thoroughly nutty men whose insanity is compounded by their encounters with each other and the inexplicable circumstances confronting them. That's also something both Kurt and his zany characters have in common.
"And here, according to Trout, was the reason humans beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: 'Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.'"
"I can't tell if you're serious or not," said the driver.
"I won't know myself until I find out whether life is serious or not," said Trout. "it's dangerous, I know, and it can hurt a lot. That doesn't necessarily mean it's serious, too."
And this book is being written by a meat machine in cooperation with a machine made of metal and plastic, incidentally,is a close relative of the gunk in Sugar Creek.
And at the core of the writing meat machine is something sacred, which is an unwavering band of light.
As three unwavering bands of light, we were simple and separate and beautiful. As machines, we were flabby bags of ancient plumbing and wiring, of rusty hinges and feeble springs. And our interrelationships were Byzantine.