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Book Review – Breakfast of Champions

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Breakfast of Champions
Kurt Vonnegut

I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that it had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.

As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent, and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason people shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.

(…) I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.

If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.

It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.

Above is a section of Breakfast of Champions that I found thought provoking. This is one of the novels that Vonnegut is famous for – for being a part of the story. He actually inserts himself, as author and creator, into the story here and there in a biographical sort of way, and it actually works out pretty well.

So yes, much of this book was thought provoking for me. Not so much on the exact ideas presented, but more from the perspective from which it came, and that slant applied to America, to the world. I say America because one of the author’s favorite pastimes seems to be introspection of the American culture, mostly pointing out the flaws, which he does in a way that is, in my opinion, so very well executed. It is straight forward and funny, but it doesn’t come off glib like a comedian would. It seems to me, and perhaps I’m being dramatic, that it comes across as though Vonnegut himself has been carrying around these burdens, and that he is (trying) to come to terms with the things that many people generally try to ignore – the things of which people can’t make any sense: suicide, murder, violence, pollution, political idiocy. This coming from a book which is stylized simply and even with illustrations like this one:

Which is a Kurt’s representation of an asshole. Nice.

Vonnegut has turned into one of my favorite vintage authors. It’s surprising to me because when I had heard of him in the past, a writer popular in the 70s, I thought: egh, hippy anti-war novel stuff, no thanks. So it took me quite a while to actually read one of his novels, and the first was because a friend and I were both taking turns picking the same books to buy and then comparing notes. Good thing I eventually discovered his works.

I don’t think everything is as grave as Vonnegut does/did, but I appreciate his books immensely.

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Written by Kat

February 10, 2008 at 12:31 am

Posted in Books, Life

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Book Review – Slaughterhouse 5

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SlaughterHouse 5
Kurt Vonnegut

“Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does.”

So I finished the book a week ago but wanted to give myself some time to further digest it. I’ll start out by saying that this review will not do this book any justice. Not because I didn’t like it, or that I couldn’t try to create a worthy review, I probably could if I did more research and wrote a paper about it. It’s a book that is both pop culture and as deep as you’d like to take it. I think I could read it 5 more times and get a slightly different impression from it.

To briefly summarize, which makes the plot sound more bizarre than it really comes across, the biggest main character, Billy Pilgrim, is an optometrist, WWII soldier, father, student, child who has become unstuck in time. That is, he randomly moves (as does the story along with him) through different points in his life with no idea what moment he will next live/relive. He also gets abducted by aliens and lives in one of their zoos for a time. Sounds strange but it works out surprisingly well. I think the harder thing to deal with in this book is the themes. War, death, the human condition(?!)

I read this book, read 1, since I’ll read it again, with that feeling you have before you pull a bandaid off. You are so afraid the story is going to take you somewhere very sad, or horrible, that you can’t move through it very fast, but you can’t put it down either.

“My God–what have they done to you, lad? This isn’t a man. It’s a broken kite.”

Kurt Vonnegut was he himself in WWII, and he survived the firebombing of Dresden where 135,000 people were killed. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 71,370 people. While I had heard about Dresden being destroyed in the war, it doesn’t get as much historical attention since (only) conventional bombs were dropped by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force. I’m sure he had things he wanted to “get out” about this time in his life. As usual, the wit is thick; Vonnegut is a master of this.

“At that time, they were teaching that there was absolutely no difference between anybody. They may be teaching that still.”

“All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet.”

I highly recommend this novel for everyone to read. I can see more and more, as this is the second novel of his I’ve read, why he is regarded as such a genius.

Written by Kat

December 21, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Books

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