I love Kurt Vonnegut, and although there’s a lot to love in Breakfast of Champions, I have mixed feelings about the book.
His high school was named after a slave owner who was also one of the world’s greatest theoreticians on the subject of human liberty.
This sentence illustrates what I love about Vonnegut: his ability to put in clear terms the absurdities and paradoxes of our world. Earlier in the book, Vonnegut puts the lie to a fact known to so many American children – that America was discovered in 1492. Of course, as Vonnegut writes, “millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives” in America then. Instead, 1492 “was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill” the indigenous Americans.
For all it does to counter false narratives and question American racism, however, I think Breakfast of Champions ultimately falls flat because of problematic language (especially use of the “N” word) and underdeveloped characters of color (Wayne Hoobler). And even if I could ignore those flaws (which I really can’t), neither the plot nor the theme are strong enough for me to consider Breakfast of Champions a great book.
Current Vonnegut Rankings:
- The Sirens of Titan
- Player Piano
- Breakfast of Champions
- Cat’s Cradle