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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 and Burger Chef franchise owner 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.

Background

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, the letters ETC, Christmas cards, a right hand that has a severed ring finger, the chemical structure of a plastic molecule, an apple, pi, zero, and infinity, and the sunglasses the author himself wears as he enters the storyline. The integration of these images into the narrative is an example of visual writing.

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. (Pefko also appears in "Fubar," a story released posthumously in Look at the Birdie.) 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 Ohiomarker.

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 the 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 (1997) 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

Kilgore Trout is a widely published, but unknown writer who is invited to deliver a keynote address at a local arts festival in distant Midland City. Dwayne Hoover is a wealthy businessman who owns much of Midland City. Unfortunately Dwayne is mentally unstable and is undergoing a gradual mental collapse. Kilgore arrives in Midland City and, by happenstance, piques the interest of Dwayne. A confused Dwayne demands a message from Kilgore, who hands over a copy of his novel. Dwayne reads the novel, which purports to be a message from the Creator of the Universe explaining that the reader - in this case Dwayne - is the only individual in the universe with free will. Everyone else is a robot. Dwayne believes the novel to be factual and immediately goes on a violent rampage, severely beating his son, his lover, and nine other people before being taken into custody.

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)



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