Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Reading Kurt Vonnegut is sometimes like reading Roald Dahl if Dahl ever wrote vitriolic political commentary for children. Immediately fallen in love with the book in its first ten pages.


  • The motto of Dwayne Hoover’s and Kilgore Trout’s nation was this, which meant in a language nobody spoke anymore, Out of Many, One: “E pluribus unum.”
  • If they studied their paper money for clues as to what their 1000x1000country was all about, they found, among a lot of other baroque trash, a picture of a truncated pyramid with a radiant eye on top of it, like this: Not even the President of the United States knew what that was all about. It was as though the country were saying to its citizens, “In nonsense is strength.”
  • THIS IS A TALE of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.
  • But Dwayne, like all novice lunatics, needed some bad ideas, too, so that his craziness could have shape and direction.
  • Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.BreakfastOfChampions(Vonnegut)
  • Trout was petrified there on Forty-second Street. It had given him a life not worth living, but I had also given him an iron will to live
  • When Trout and the theater manager, two tinhorns, said they didn’t want any tinhorn fun, the dying children sauntered off, their feet sticking to the planet, coming unstuck, then sticking again.
  • They rode in silence for a while, and then the driver made another good point. He said he knew that his truck was turning the atmosphere into poison gas, and that the planet was being turned into pavement so his truck could go anywhere. “So I’m committing suicide,” he said.
  • Trout couldn’t tell one politician from another one. They were all formlessly enthusiastic chimpanzees to him. He wrote a story one time about an optimistic chimpanzee who became President of the United States. He called it “Hail to the Chief.”
  • The idiot’s happiness was fascinating, too, as he stoked himself with calories which would get him through yet another day.
  • But his head no longer sheltered ideas of how things could be and should be on the planet, as opposed to how they really were. There was only one way for the Earth to be, he thought: the way it was.
  • Like most science-fiction writers, Trout knew almost nothing about science, was bored stiff by technical details.
  • Then he heard that husbands of women who had been raped during the war between India and Pakistan wouldn’t have anything to do with their wives anymore. The women, in the eyes of their husbands, had become unclean, said the radio. “Unclean,” said Dwayne.
  • He closed his eyes. He became a skin diver in the depths of his mind. The depths were seldom used.
  • “This is a very bad book you’re writing,” I said to myself behind my leaks. “I know,” I said. “You’re afraid you’ll kill yourself the way your mother did,” I said. “I know,” I said.
  • That particular drink wasn’t for any ordinary person. That drink was for the person who had created all Wayne’s misery to date, who could kill him or make him a millionaire or send him back to prison or do whatever he damn pleased with Wayne. That drink was for me.
  • She wanted to light my hurricane lamp again. I wouldn’t let her. “Can you see anything in the dark, with your sunglasses on?” she asked me. “The big show is inside my head,” I said.
  • I thought Karabekian with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid. I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that it had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • What is time? It is a serpent which eats its tail tumblr_mi7wk97Lx71qamw54o1_500
  • I did not worry about his asking me to leave the establishment. I had created him, after all. I gave him a name: Harold Newcomb Wilbur.
  • Harold Newcomb Wilbur got his medals for killing Japanese, who were yellow robots. They were fueled by rice.
  • “The more details the better,” said Karabekian. “Thank God for novelists. Thank God there are people willing to write everything down. Otherwise, so much would be forgotten!” He begged Bonnie for more true stories.
  • Kilgore Trout had my father’s shins. They were a present from me
  • At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light.
  • He sat like a lump of nose putty, staring at something long ago and far away.
  • Trout was aware of me, too, what little he could see of me. I made him even more uneasy than Dwayne did. The thing was: Trout was the only character I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being. He had spoken of this possibility several times to his parakeet. He had said, for instance, “Honest to God, Bill, the way things are going, all I can think of is that I’m a character in a book by somebody who wants to write about somebody who suffers all the time.”
  • There should have been an “A” in there somewhere for Awareness—without which the “E” and the “M” and the “c,” which was a mathematical constant; could not exist.
  • The white men wouldn’t do it either, of course. They called it women’s work, and the women called it Nigger work.
  • They have committed every possible atrocity and every possible kindness unfeelingly, automatically, inevitably, to get a reaction from Y-O-U.
  • He clasped his hands behind his back and placed his feet apart. He assumed the position known as parade rest. This position was taught to soldiers and prisoners alike—as a way of demonstrating attentiveness, gullibility, respect, and voluntary defenselessness
  • He wanted nothing particular from Trout. Some part of his mind was idly exercising his skill at making strangers come to him. He was a fisherman for men’s souls.
  • “You got to do me a favor,” said Washington. He had no idea what favor to ask. It would come to him. Ideas for favors always came.
  • Midland City Center for the Arts. He would make it grow by walking toward it.
  • When I got out of my Plymouth Duster, I feared nothing. That was foolish of me. A writer off-guard, since the materials with which he works are so dangerous, can expect agony as quick as a thunderclap.
  • At any rate, I also retracted my testicles into my abdominal cavity, pulled them into my fuselage like the landing gear of an airplane. And now they tell me that only surgery will bring them down again.
  • Most of all, we hunger for symbols which have not been poisoned by great sins our nation has committed, such as slavery and genocide and criminal neglect, or by tinhorn commercial greed and cunning.
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