Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Austin Vitelli, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Austin!
I’d like to welcome Kathleen Le Dain as a contributor to What’s That Book.
Title: Breakfast of Champions
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction/Postmodernism
What’s it about? The novel takes place in a fictional Ohio town and highlights two main characters: Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout. The latter is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s books—although Trout’s background and life details vary from book to book, he is always presented as an unsuccessful science fiction author. Hoover, a successful businessman in Midland City, Ohio, slowly spirals into insanity, angry at the world ever since his wife committed suicide and his son came out as homosexual.
One of the main concepts Vonnegut explores in the book is that humans are “biological machines,” arguing that bad ideas combined with chemical imbalances ultimately result in mental illness. For a book written in 1973, I was surprised how much it discussed mental health issues.
How did you hear about it? I bought it at The Book Barn in Connecticut several years ago. I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area.
Have you read other books by this author? Yes, Slaughterhouse-Five is one of my favorite books of all time. I have also read Player Piano and Cat’s Cradle.
What did you like about the book? Vonnegut’s commitment to being simple and forward in his writing, all while interweaving themes such as free will and mental illness, makes his novels easy to consume. It might seem like almost nothing happens in this novel plot wise, and at times this seems to be on purpose. He is never afraid to break the fourth wall and any other sort of “literary rules” set out by society, even inserting himself as a character in this book. He doesn’t care for overly descriptive and cryptic explanations of characters or settings. He manages to say in one sentence what some authors need three pages to say.
Closing comments: This book isn’t for everyone. It’s strange, meta, vulgar, and full of drawings. But if you can look past the absurdity of what is happening, Vonnegut does a brilliant job of exploring important themes in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen another author do.
Contributor: Austin Vitelli is a Managing Editor at a medical publishing company in Pennsylvania. You can view his website at www.austinvitelli.com.
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