Editor reviews

Editors Select, June 2015 - There's a line in Amy Poehler's Yes Please where she says that 'teenage bodies should be filled with Vonnegut and meatball subs.' That was me. I devoured Vonnegut's unique voice; his genre blending; his irreverence; and, most of all, his dark humor. All of these things are on full display in Breakfast of Champions – a book that, as the narrator deceptively points out at the start, is about the 'meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast,' but is actually so much more. John Malkovich's narration is a true masterstroke. The renowned actor's distinctive voice embodies the charm and menace implicit in Vonnegut's work, especially as the fourth wall crumbles and Vonnegut's omniscient narrator becomes a character in his own book. And so on. —Doug, Audible Editor
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Audie Award Finalist, Best Male Narrator, 2016
Breakfast of Champions (1973) provides frantic, scattershot satire and a collage of Vonnegut's obsessions. His recurring cast of characters and American landscape was perhaps the most controversial of his canon; it was felt by many at the time to be a disappointing successor to Slaughterhouse-Five, which had made Vonnegut's literary reputation.
The core of the novel is Kilgore Trout, a familiar character very deliberately modeled on the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985), a fact which Vonnegut conceded frequently in interviews and which was based upon his own occasional relationship with Sturgeon. Here Kilgore Trout is an itinerant wandering from one science fiction convention to another; he intersects with the protagonist, Dwayne Hoover (one of Vonnegut's typically boosterish, lost, and stupid mid-American characters), and their intersection is the excuse for the evocation of many others, familiar and unfamiliar, dredged from Vonnegut's gallery. The central issue is concerned with intersecting and apposite views of reality, and much of the narrative is filtered through Trout, who is neither certifiably insane nor a visionary writer but can pass for either depending upon Dwayne Hoover's (and Vonnegut's) view of the situation.
America, when this novel was published, was in the throes of Nixon, Watergate, and the unraveling of our intervention in Vietnam; the nation was beginning to fragment ideologically and geographically, and Vonnegut sought to cram all of this dysfunction (and a goofy, desperate kind of hope, the irrational comfort given through the genre of science fiction) into a sprawling narrative whose sense, if any, is situational, not conceptual. Reviews were polarized; the novel was celebrated for its bizarre aspects and became the basis of a Bruce Willis movie adaptation whose reviews were not nearly so polarized. (Most critics hated it.)
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©1973 Kurt Vonnegut (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kaggy on 28-06-18

A unique and biting wit

What can I say? This is after all by one of the most fascinating and daring novelists ever to have produced a book. Although written in the 70s, his faux innocent descriptions of America remain relevant today and his humour is as fresh and startling as any contemporary comedian. John Malkovitch’s dry and steady voice makes him the perfect narrator for Vonnegut and I loved to picture his face while he read some of the more outrageous passages. This was a real treat and I will be ploughing through the Vonnegut catalogue on Audible with real relish.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Lulubeth on 08-10-17

Still pointed

Vonnegut revived by Malkovich's performance/reading in this audio recording. The sexism - not the worst of its times - is a little wearing but the book does stand up still, shifting wickedly between worlds, perspectives and outrageous calling-of-bluff regarding the usual conventions of fiction. I loved it.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Scott on 12-12-15

Not one of his better ones

I love Kurt Vonnegut (and here there is a picture of a big heart). However, I don't believe that this is one of his better stories. Of course, he admitted it was not one of his better stories. In addition, because the drawings make the book a little more enjoyable, not having them makes it a little less enjoyable. John Malkovich (and here there is a picture of a bald man) does an OK job. However, his voice comes across as a bit bored.I'm curious how I would've experienced the story with a different narrator (and here there is a picture of a big question mark).

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Dubi on 10-01-16

Kurt Was Right to Grade This a C

Breakfast of Champions was the first of Kurt Vonnegut's novels that I read upon its original publication. Like many others, I was introduced to KV via Slaughterhouse-5 and went back and read his entire back catalogue while awaiting his next title. 40 years later, whenever a KV audiobook comes up in a sale, I get it and re-read it in a format that should be, in theory, ideal for conveying his idiosyncratic voice.

My results have been mixed in a specific way -- books I didn't care for as in my younger days (Mother Night, Rosewater) are ones I loved listening to, timeless classics still relevant today, while those long ago dubbed classics (Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions) now come across as dated, juvenile, amateurish.

That I felt that way about BoC is no surprise -- KV himself gave it a C, the second lowest grade he gave his own novels. Listen: he was right. He tells you in the foreword (and he said it again over the years) that this is an exercise in dumping random ideas that were cluttering his brain. It sure reads that way. When he strays from his characters to pursue and purge these thoughts, he loses momentum from what could've been a good straightforward narrative, and he loses me. I'm all for metafiction, but his would've better as straight fiction.

I was hoping this version, with the great actor John Malkovich narrating, would make for a memorable audiobook experience. Malkovich should stick to acting. His deadpan delivery is all wrong -- he sounds like he is reading the lines for the first time. He takes long pauses in the middle of sentences and then runs on to new sentences without pause. I would normally blame myself for setting my expectations too high, but this performance by one of my favorite actors is technically and stylistically bad.

All that said, there are interesting angles for Vonnegut fans. Like Kilgore Trout, KV was dealing with newfound fame following the publication of S-5 and was not sure he wanted to keep writing, themes he explores. He was dealing concurrently with his son's schizophrenia (recounted in Eden Express), hence the primary themes madness, free will, perceptions of reality -- we didn't know about his when the book was published, but in hindsight, looking for this theme helped me get through the mediocrity of the overall work.

Be warned that there is potentially offensive language and subject matter. KV allows the racism of some of his characters to come through with frequent use of the N word, he informs the reader of the dimensions of every male characters' junk, and he also discusses female genitalia in detail.

On the other hand, KV has a genius for distilling things into simplistic language that really packs a punch -- he describes Vietnam as a war to save rice-fueled Asian robots from Communism by dropping things on them from the sky, and defoliants as chemicals used to destroy the trees the rice-fueled robots use to hide from the things dropped on them from the sky. (He doesn't call them Asian, he uses a slur that I will not repeat.)

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61 of 66 people found this review helpful

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