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on 9 January 2018
Perhaps the most caustic, cynical and world weary book of all time.

Essential reading for realists.
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on 17 December 2017
A splendid book from one of my favourite authors! Absolutely essential reading.
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on 12 June 2017
'Breakfast of Champions' tells the story of the trajectories which lead to the existential collision of two people - an old writer, Kilgore Trout, and a mentally unstable car dealer, Dwayne Hoover. There is also a third person, who is somehow the maker and the spectator of such an existential collision, and who may or may not be the author who actually invented those two people as well as all the other characters of the book. This novel, however, is much more.

'Breakfast of Champions' is a paper-back encyclopaedia of American Post-Modernism. This novel, in fact, contains all the main elements explored and exploited in the works of writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Don De Lillo, Martin Amis, David Foster Wallace and Italo Calvino. There is a fragmentation seeking unity; there is metafiction and hyper-textuality; there is the criticism of consumerism, imperialism and techno-culture, here conveyed through the not-so-subtle criticism of US history of slavery; there are bizarre and hyper-realistic characters in surreal situations and inter-connected by extravagant, obscure and sometimes even occult relations.

'Breakfast of Champions' is all of this, and accomplishes such a great result while having the elegance and decency of remaining under the 300 pages. Furthermore, this is also a really really really funny novel to read. There are moments in which the black humour explodes in fragments of colour and will make you laugh out loud.

Almost until the end, I was going to give this novel only 4 stars, as I felt that there was just one thing missing in this rich and complex picture. I felt that, as funny or tragic or ambiguous as Vonnegut's characters are, I was not feeling enough empathy towards them. This is, after all, what a lot of post-modern literature always risks. Often, the characters of, let's say, DeLillo or Amis, risk to be too 'cold', impersonal, mono-dimensional, while their authors seem to be more interested in playing with their inventive literary creations. (This criticism is often moved against Pynchon (whom I adore), although I think that Pynchon's characters only require just a bit of patience.) It is also understandable that a literary current which aims at denouncing the 'robotisation' and 'dehumanisation' of the world will tend to (knowingly!) produce characters who have very little humanity left. However, having already read the works of many other post-modernists, I just wanted something more from Vonnegut, not the 'usual' cold and artificial post-modern characters, unaware of their own despair.

Of course, I was wrong. Mr. Vonnegut surprised me and the end of 'Breakfast of Champions' was warm and melancholic and sentimental, and it also made me a bit emotional.

Five stars, mr. Vonnegut, five stars!
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on 1 November 2015
I'm a massive Kurt Vonnegut fan and love his books. Slaughter house five is my all time favourite, but this is a good and imaginative read.
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on 16 October 2017
“The women all had big minds because they were big animals, but they did not use them much for this reason: unusual ideas could make enemies, and the women, if they were going to achieve any sort of comfort and safety, needed all the friends they could get. So, in the interest of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.”

Packed with some wonderful quotes and snappy lines, this is a fearless, irreverent and lean book, crammed with punchy prose that strike fast, hard and deep. The pages are filled with funny and surreal art work, all rendered with a haunting simplicity. Not many books attack and ridicule the myth of modern America with such devastating clarity and precision as Vonnegut does here. Quotes along the lines of, “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 have to.” Have just as much power and resonance more than forty years down the line, or what about,

“People took such awful chances with chemicals and their bodies because they wanted the quality of their lives to improve. They lived in ugly places where there were only ugly things to do. They didn’t own doodly-squat, so they couldn’t improve their surroundings. So they did their best to make their insides beautiful instead. The results had been catastrophic so far-suicide, theft, murder, and insanity and so on. But new chemicals were coming onto the market all the time.”

There are many moments of brilliance in here, and at times it skirts close to outright genius. It’s boldly political, hitting a broad range of subjects from class snobbery, the environment, the Vietnam War to consumerism, drug addiction and religion. With lines like, “He was a graduate of West Point, a military academy which turned young men into homicidal maniacs for use in war.” It also dabbles in meta-fiction, though it does lose a little bit of steam towards the end, but not enough to dilute the overall power of the text, especially with lucid passages like,

“English teachers would wince and cover their ears and give them flunking grades and so on whenever they failed to speak like English aristocrats before the First World War. Also: they were told that they were unworthy to speak or write their language if they couldn’t love or understand incomprehensible novels and poems and plays about people long ago and far away.”

This is a fearless journey deep into the black heart and tainted soul of America. Vonnegut holds up a mirror and reveals the ugly truth in all its horror. This is clearly well ahead of its time and without doubt it lives up to the classic status that so many have bestowed upon it. This is a cracking book, packed with some great quotes, frank insights and unflinching social commentary.
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on 24 August 2007
For quite a while I had been planning on reading some of Vonnegut's books, but I kept forgetting and grabbing other things from my TBR list. But when a month back I saw the author interviewed in two of my favorite shows regarding his new book "A man without a country", I was once more enticed to follow-up on the idea of reading his works.

It seemed to me that "Mother Night" was a good place to start as any, even though most people's starting point would probably be "Slaughterhouse Five", which I will hopefully get around to reading soon. In "Mother Night", Vonnegut presents us with an extremely interesting setting, which contains a whole array of "gray situations", since Howard W. Campbell, Jr. tells his story as an American spy working in the German publicity machine during World War II. What makes the case even more interesting is that the narrator is not really clear regarding the events that developed during that period. Logically, one would expect Howard to say he hated what he had to do in order to support the US, but in fact we are faced with a scenario that allows for a lot more ambiguity than that. And even though, I have only read this novel by this author so far, I believe that this is one of his most salient characteristics.

Besides the interesting storyline, I was pleasantly impressed by the author's writing style, using short chapters that are somewhat linked in their main topics, but that are not completely linear. This reminds me of the work of one of my favorite Latin American authors, Eduardo Galeano, who uses a similar approach to writing. If you are interested in reading about the history Latin America and like Vonnegut's style, I highly recommend Galeano's non-fiction book "The Open Veins of Latin America".

Coming back to Vonnegut, I recommend "Mother Night" to all those that enjoy stories in which ethics and the concept of what is wrong and what is right play a central role. As to me, I am already looking forward to my next Vonnegut read.
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on 17 July 2015
A loopy tour of Kurt's fantastic and complicated mind. it does not reach the same heights as Cat's Cradle or Slaughter House Five and you have to roll with some school-boy humor which doesn't really add to the narrative (unless I completely missed something because I am not a genius, like Kurt). But there are so many instances where he sums up the world and humans and how we are all just adapting as best we can to the chaos, in the way only Kurt can, it is enough to keep any fans of the aforementioned novels happy. And so on.
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on 26 December 2017
Speedy delivery and good book if you’re into Vonnegut’s work.
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on 27 February 2009
Reading some of the blandly negative reviews on the site, I felt I should say something about the book - which is a great one, from what I can tell. One especially zealous reviewer suggested that Vonnegut inserts himself in the book to add an autobiographical element to the proceedings - but this is really not the case. I don't want to go on, suffice to say that the overarching theme of the novel is that of free will, and specifically how much of this is actually desirable. The narrator is an example of absolute free will. Vonnegut (not necessarily the same person as the narrator) allows his narrator tell the story in as ridiculous, digressive, anarchic a style as possible. This perhaps illustrates the idea that total free will is not necessary or indeed beneficial to rational happiness. This sort of thing is evident throughout the novel, with the story of the robot pimp etc. To be honest, 'Breakfast...' is just a totally interestng, thoughtful and lovely book. Everyone should at least give it a try. Just look closely, that's all.
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on 15 April 2002
If you enjoy the bittersweet sardonic wit of American 'greats' like Joseph Heller ('Catch 22') then Kurt Vonnegut's seminal '70's classic should definately appeal. True, it is is technically different from the traditional kind of prose style, being written as a kind of retrospective journey through Vonnegut's own literary past, but it does contain the usual beginning, middle and end normally associated with standard prose fiction.
'Breakfast Of Champions' is Vonnegut's fiftieth birthday present to himself so it is tempting to see the whole process as some kind of mid-life clearing out of much of his literary characters, thoughts and, maybe even, aspirations, however don't let such a gloomy critical assumption deter from the comic genius that Vonnegut allows free rein during this emancipation of his fictional creations.
The plot centers around failed science fiction author, Kilgore Trout (said to be loosely based on real-life author Theodore Sturgeon). Trout lives an empty, post-modernist suburban American existence until his work is recognised by a warped but rich art collector who thinks that Trout is a genius, and possibly the saviour of mankind, (get the picture?) Thusly Trout relucantly sets out, Homer's 'Odyssey' style across mid-America, encountering all kinds of adventures, not least pushing automobile salesman, Dwayne Hoover over the brink of insanity along the way.
Vonnegut himself undertakes this 'journey' via the technical medium of naive, almost child-like narrative, which, if you think would make the story boring or irrelevant think again, Vonnegut pulls this off with both ease and style, and the result is that this is one of the few books that will ever succeed in making you think hard, laugh out loud and end by wanting to cry at the sheer idiocy of so called 'intelligent' mankind.
But hey! Don't take my word for it. The cover notes sing the praises for themselves and I, for one, have always agreed that Vonnegut does 'perform considerable complex magic' and manages to make 'pornography seem like any old plumbing, violence like lovemaking, innocence like evil, and guilt like child's play'. This book may be easy to read but it is frustratingly hard to put down and equally hard to forget.
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