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Breakfast of Champions [Secure eReader]
eBook by Kurt Vonnegut

eBook Category: Classic Literature/Mainstream
eBook Description: Kurt Vonnegut's "explosive meditation" of a novel Breakfast of Champions (1973) is subtitled "Goodbye Blue Monday!" It is peppered with simple, childlike illustrations drawn by the author, and it tells a crazy-quilt story that eventually defies the constraints of the novel format itself. All of this seems to constitute an act of self-liberation, and it is: Vonnegut overhauling his creative world, breathing deeply and toying with the very nature of the novel. The title echoes the claims of a well-known American breakfast cereal, and it crystallizes the irony of the author's vision. Breakfast of Champions is one of his greatest successes, a freewheeling and hugely entertaining meditation on modern American life that draws in some definitive figures from the author's imagination, such as the hapless sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout and the wealthy Elliot Rosewater, and finally the author himself. With a magic that contrasts the white-hot spell of his previous novel, Slaughterhouse Five--and virtually deconstructs the novel itself--Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions trips through American mindset of the early 1970s, its deadpan irony satirizing the party line on just about everything, from sex and racism to the Vietnam War and the meaning of the American dream. One of Vonnegut's most enduring creations, Kilgore Trout is a science fiction writer who has not known much success as Breakfast of Champions begins. To his amazement, he is invited to the Midwest, to participate in the Festival of the Arts in Midland City, at the insistence of the crazy but wealthy Eliot Rosewater. Trout is on a collision course with one of Midland City's more successful businessmen, a Pontiac dealer named Dwayne Hoover, who happens to be slipping into insanity (too many bad chemicals in his system). Reading a Trout story sends Hoover completely around the bend. The novel itself then follows him, as Vonnegut's inquisitive imagination divines the freaky chaos beneath the careful surface of American life. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Nora Sayre noted that "in this novel, Vonnegut is treating himself to a giant brain-flush, clearing his head by throwing out acquired ideas, and also liberating some of the characters from his previous books.... This explosive meditation ranks with Vonnegut's best."

eBook Publisher: RosettaBooks/RosettaBooks, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2002


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Chapter 1

This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.

One of them was a science-fiction writer named Kilgore Trout. He was a nobody at the time, and he supposed his life was over. He was mistaken. As a consequence of the meeting, he became one of the most beloved and respected human beings in history.

The man he met was an automobile dealer, a Pontiac dealer named Dwayne Hoover. Dwayne Hoover was on the brink of going insane.

* * *

Listen:

Trout and Hoover were citizens of the United States of America, a country which was called America for short. This was their national anthem, which was pure balderdash, like so much they were expected to take seriously:

O, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

There were one quadrillion nations in the Universe, but the nation Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout belonged to was the only one with a national anthem which was gibberish sprinkled with question marks.

It was the law of their nation, a law no other nation on the planet had about its flag, which said this: "The flag shall not be dipped to any person or thing."

Flag-dipping was a form of friendly and respectful salute, which consisted of bringing the flag on a stick closer to the ground, then raising it up again.

* * *

The motto of Dwayne Hoover's and Kilgore Trout's nation was this, which meant in a language nobody spoke anymore, Out of Many, One: "E pluribus unum."

The undippable flag was a beauty, and the anthem and the vacant motto might not have mattered much, if it weren't for this: a lot of citizens were so ignored and cheated and insulted that they thought they might be in the wrong country, or even on the wrong planet, that some terrible mistake had been made. It might have comforted them some if their anthem and their motto had mentioned fairness or brotherhood or hope or happiness, had somehow welcomed them to the society and its real estate.

If they studied their paper money for clues as to what their country was all about, they found, among a lot of other baroque trash, a picture of a truncated pyramid with a radiant eye on top of it.

Not even the President of the United States knew what that was all about. It was as though the country were saying to its citizens, "In nonsense is strength."

* * *

A lot of the nonsense was the innocent result of playfulness on the part of the founding fathers of the nation of Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout. The founders were aristocrats, and they wished to show off their useless education, which consisted of the study of hocus-pocus from ancient times. They were bum poets as well.

But some of the nonsense was evil, since it concealed great crimes. For example, teachers of children in the United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again, and asked the children to memorize it with pride and joy:

1492

The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.

Here was another piece of evil nonsense which children were taught: that the sea pirates eventually created a government which became a beacon of freedom to human beings everywhere else. There were pictures and statues of this supposed imaginary beacon for children to see. It was sort of an ice-cream cone on fire. It looked like this:

Actually, the sea pirates who had the most to do with the creation of the new government owned human slaves. They used human beings for machinery, and, even after slavery was eliminated, because it was so embarrassing, they and their descendants continued to think of ordinary human beings as machines.

Copyright © 1973 by Kurt Vonnegut


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