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on 5 June 2016
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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 5 July 2017
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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 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 23 June 2017
Vonnegut has become sad and bitter as he approaches his 50th birthday. The humour is not as evident. His alienation from humanity is at its sharpest.
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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 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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on 1 February 2017
Classic Vonnegut. Read this back in the 70's. Still sureal and thought provocing.
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