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Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is a 1973 novel by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Set in the fictional town of Midland City, it is the story of "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast." One of these men, Dwayne Hoover, is a normal-looking but deeply deranged Pontiac dealer who becomes obsessed with the writings of the other man, Kilgore Trout, taking them for literal truth. Trout, a largely unknown pulp science fiction writer who has appeared in several other Vonnegut novels, looks like a crazy old man but is in fact relatively sane. As the novel opens, Trout journeys toward Midland City to appear at a convention where he is destined to meet Dwayne Hoover and unwittingly inspire him to run amok. Vonnegut sprinkled plot descriptions for Trout's stories throughout the novel. He also filled the book with some of his own simple felt-tip pen drawings, intending to illustrate various aspects of life on Earth. These drawings include renderings of an anus, an American flag, the date 1492, a vagina, little girls' underpants, guns, trucks, cows and the hamburgers that are made from them, chickens and the Kentucky Fried Chicken that is made from them, an electric chair, and the sunglasses the author himself wears as he enters the storyline.

In addition to Kilgore Trout, several more characters from other Vonnegut books appear here, such as Eliot Rosewater and Rabo Karabekian. Rosewater was the main character in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965) and a minor character in Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), while Karabekian later became the main character in Bluebeard (1988). Hoover's secretary, Francine Pefko, previously appeared in Cat's Cradle (1963), where she performed secretarial duties at General Forge and Foundry, in Ilium, New York. Vonnegut reuses the name Khashdrahr Miasma for a minor character, in reference to a character in Player Piano. The vicious guard dog, Kazak, was Winston Niles Rumfoord's pet in The Sirens of Titan (1959) and Selena MacIntosh's guide dog in Galápagos (1985). Many of Midland City's inhabitants reappear in Deadeye Dick (1982), which locates the city in Ohio.

The title, taken from the well-known slogan for Wheaties breakfast cereal, crops up in a key scene late in the novel when a waitress, apparently ironically, says "Breakfast of Champions" each time she serves a customer a martini. Vonnegut, in his typical sarcastic manner, mocks the legal and copyright systems as he notes meticulously that Breakfast of Champions is a registered trademark of General Mills, Inc. for its breakfast cereal products, and that his use of the term is not "intended to disparage their fine products." He uses a strange name for a character, Philboyd Studge, which he borrowed from a short story by Edwardian satirist Saki. ("Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse That Helped", describes the success of the eponymous breakfast cereal through bizarrely counter-intuitive advertising.)

The novel also describes a fictional extinct giant sea eagle called the Bermuda Ern. This allegorical species was later described in Vonnegut's Book Timequake as a pelagic raptor, a "great blue bird" the looming extinction of whose population was being caused by its female members kicking the eggs from the nest prior to their hatching, rather than kicking the young fledgelings from the nest at the appropriate time.

Breakfast of Champions was made into a 1999 film starring Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Nick Nolte and Omar Epps. The movie was widely panned by critics.

Plot summary

The early chapters of the book introduce the two main characters: Kilgore Trout, a struggling science fiction writer, and Dwayne Hoover, an increasingly insane, but "fabulously well-to-do" car dealer. Kilgore receives an invitation to speak at a convention in Midland City, Dwayne's home town.

Dwayne meanwhile is slowly going mad. He hallucinates, and his "bad chemicals" make him do many strange things. He insults his employees, making one of them think that Dwayne knows he is a secret transvestite. Many minor characters are introduced, most of whom have hidden links to other characters. Kilgore hitchhikes his way across the country and ends up in the bar at the same hotel as both the author and Dwayne.

The author points out the spiritual climax of the book: a snobbish painter explains his greatest work to the silent bar. The painting is of a single bright orange band on a huge green canvas. He explains that at the core of everything that is can be found a shining bright line. A mother and her son, a father and his daughter, or two lovers: nothing but two shining, unwavering bands of light.

The author speaks of various fates that will befall the characters within the world he has created. Dwayne finally meets Kilgore and his "bad chemicals" trigger a rampage. He attacks many people at the bar and bites the end off Kilgore's finger. They are all taken away in a large emergency vehicle.

After Kilgore is released from the hospital he is confronted by the author of the novel and has a few last things explained to him. The author tells Kilgore that he can send him anywhere in his past or future. The author then transports himself back to his own dimension as Kilgore's shouts fade out: "Make me young!... Make me young!..."

Editions

  • ISBN 0-224-00888-9 (1973)
  • ISBN 1-56267-113-8 (paperback, 1996)
  • ISBN 0-385-33420-6 (paperback, 1999)
  • ISBN 0-7953-0240-1 (e-book)
  • ISBN 0-7953-0242-8 (e-book)

External links

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