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Friday, October 14, 2016

Breakfast of Champions (1973) by Kurt Vonnegut

One of the line illustrations contained inside Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
Book Review
Breakfast of Champions (1973)
by Kurt Vonnegut

    Kurt Vonnegut placed four titles on the first 1001 Books list, Breakfast of Champions, published in 1973, is chronologically the last of those books, and it also one of the two titles that got cut in the first revision.   I am not a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut at the best of times.   I would argue that Vonnegut has not aged well, and nowhere is this more apparent in Breakfast of Champions, which takes his penchant for doodles and repetition to a logical extreme by including actual doodles in the text as well as dozens of paragraphs that end with "and so it goes."

  Breakfast of Champions is also an incredibly inter-textual book, full of characters from his other books, particularly Kilgore Trout, the stand in for Vonnegut who appears talismanicaly in many of Vonnegut's other works.  Here, he is a main character.   Trout is a prolific, little known author of science fiction books who conceals great truths in his pulpy plots.   He is spectacularly unread in all of Vonnegut's books, but here he finds a great fan, who is unfortunately inspired by Trout's book-within-a-book plot to go on a violent rampage.

   And so it goes, as Vonnegut would say.  It's impossible to miss the decline in average length of the titles between decades.   18th century, many of the books are over 500 pages.  In the 19th century, books were often published in three volume sets, with a total length of 3 to 500 pages.  In the 20th century, the 300 page novel is standard until the mid century, but by the late 1960's and 1970's, the average length of a title on the 1001 Books list is closer to 200 pages.


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