I’m becoming a big Vonnegut fan, although I came to him a bit later in life than most. This is the fourth one of his novels I’ve read -it’s been my experience (which has been corroborated by the opinions of others) that his short stories aren’t really worth the time. It will not be my last. I’ve been thinking about how few authors I have read the entire body of works of, and which authors I’d like to put on that list. Kundera is one, as are Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson. The novels of Kurt Vonnegut are under consideration.
“Breakfast of Champions” is one of his best. It’s witty and often upsetting, with the kind of genuinely comic darkness that tends to bleed out of Vonnegut on his best days. Like another personal hero, George Carlin, Vonnegut seems to be looking at the world at a 90 degree angle while we’re all stuck looking at it head-on. His “guidebook-for-alien-observers” narration in this book only brings this out more.
It’s not a remotely challenging read, and “Breakfast of Champions” isn’t breaking through any new ice in 2015, but the challenges and problems of Midland City as it emerges from the 60s haven’t gotten anywhere close to being solved. Vonnegut’s book is still valuable – and not merely as a historical artifact, but as a very relevant and relatable piece of work. Which doesn’t say a lot of good about our progress over the last few years.
Recommendation: Read it! And maybe get his illustration of an asshole tattooed somewhere on your body.