Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness....
The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey....
Eliot Rosewater, a drunk volunteer fireman and president of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation, is about to attempt a noble experiment....
Cat's Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut's satirical commentary on modern man and his madness....
Tender Branson, the last surviving member of the so-called Creedish Death Cult, is dictating his life story into the flight recorder of Flight 2039....
The hero of John Kennedy Toole's incomparable, Pulitzer Prize-winning comic classic is one Ignatius J. Reilly, "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua"....
American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal....
Meet Rabo Karabekian, a moderately successful surrealist painter who we meet late in life and see struggling....
Eugene Debs Hartke describes an odyssey from college professor to prison inmate to prison warden back again to prisoner....
Galapagos takes the listener back one million years to AD 1986....
The story centers on brother and sister twins, children of Wilbur Swain, who are in sympathetic and (possibly) telepathic communication....
Kurt Vonnegut's first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus....
It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague....
Leo Tolstoy's classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature....
In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of madness and captures the insanity of violence in our time or any other....
One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize-winning career....
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 that Vonnegut conceded frequently in interviews and that 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.)
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.)
60 of 64 people found this review helpful
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).
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This book is amusing enough if you've enjoyed other Vonnegut works, and even uproarious at times regardless of whether you've ever read Vonnegut. And yet, I couldn't help feeling like a newcomer to a succession of inside jokes, or to a running gag that only Vonnegut devotees get. I think this insider-feeling to the novel is one reason why Vonnegut graded this book a "C" in hindsight.
I was peeved at John Malkovich's narration, particularly since it was the clincher in buying this audiobook. In steely staccato, he speed read through this book with an unrivaled indifference.
By comparison, I've found other renowned actors' narrations have exceeded my expectations; for example, Maggie Gyllenhaal's reading/acting of The Bell Jar, Tim Robbins of Fahrenheit 451, Richard Armitage of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and Jennifer Connelly of The Sheltering Sky. I guess that's the difference between really caring and just cashing in.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
1) Vonnegut speaks honestly about relevant social issues without being sanctimonious.
2) Malkovich says "doodely-squat" and "wide-open beavers" beautifully and its everything you could hope for.
28 of 31 people found this review helpful
What didn’t you like about John Malkovich’s performance?
Malkovich's deadpan tone is spot-on. Not spot-on is his frequent misreading of sentences and his weird tendency to run consecutive sentences into each other. I don't think Malkovich had his attention focused on the task. His mind was wandering. This performance was well done in many places, but in many other places it was distracting and off-putting. <br/><br/>If you are unfamiliar with Vonnegut or with this book Breakfast of Champions in particular, then I do *not* recommend listening to this audiobook. It will not make you a fan of Vonnegut.
31 of 35 people found this review helpful
It's was a little slow and fry for Vonnegut in my opinion but none the less a good novel with excellent reading. John Malkovich was an interesting choice but absolutely nailed the overall tone of the story. I probably would listen again but we'll worth it at least once. Anyone struggling with it: finish it. trust me the ending is worth it.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
This is the ultimate match-up; Vonnegut read by Malkovich. Huge Vonnegut fan that I am, he can do no wrong in my mind. Sassy and cynical, with depth but accessible. Our foibles, and follies, and self absorbedness in black and white. The quirk of Vonnegut is timeless and apropos. But we never open our eyes, do we. Ironically, my favorite part is the epilogue; a place I can closely relate and oddly brought me to tears.
12 of 14 people found this review helpful
Just finished listening to Breakfast of Champions as read by John Malkovich. I thought Malkovich did an amazing job, his descriptions of the hand-drawn illustrations from the book made me laugh, as did many, many things in the book. Far from being “just” a reaction to the state of the world in 1973 when it was first published, the book seems to me to have been scarily prescient of the state of the world around me right now (2016).
There was so much I loved about this book there is no way I can fit it all into one review. Here are just a few of the things:
1) The way Vonnegut explained in one or two sentences what common words meant, as if someone in the far future were reading the book and would need explanations, as here:
“Dwayne's bad chemicals made him take a loaded thirty-eight caliber revolver from under his pillow and stick it in his mouth. This was a tool whose only purpose was to make holes in human beings.”
“A lamb was a young animal which was legendary for sleeping well on the planet Earth.”
2) Spot-on observations about the human condition, which appeared practically every paragraph, as here:
“The women all had big minds because they were big animals, but they didn't use them for this reason: unusual ideas could make enemies and the women, if they were going to achieve any sort of comfort and safety, needed all the friends they could get. So, in the interest of survival they trained themselves to be agreeing machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking and then they thought it too.”
“The whole city was dangerous—because of chemicals and the uneven distribution of wealth and so on.”
“It didn't matter much what Dwayne said. It hadn't mattered much for years. It didn't matter much what most people in Midland City said out loud, except when they were talking about money or structures or travel or machinery - or other measurable things. Every person had a clearly defined part to play - as a black person, a female high school drop-out, a Pontiac dealer, a gynecologist, a gas-conversion burner installer. If a person stopped living up to expectations, because of bad chemicals or one thing or another, everybody went on imagining that the person was living up to expectations anyway. That was the main reason the people in Midland City were so slow to detect insanity in their associates. Their imaginations insisted that nobody changed much from day to day. Their imaginations were flywheels on the ramshackle machinery of awful truth.”
3) Sentences and sequences that made me laugh out loud, like this:
“Like everybody else in the cocktail lounge, he was softening his brain with alcohol. This was a substance produced by a tiny creature called yeast. Yeast organisms ate sugar and excreted alcohol. They killed themselves by destroying their environment. Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.”
“Thomas Jefferson High School [..] 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.”
Brilliant, mind-blowing novel, totally different from anything else I have ever read. I would highly recommend this version narrated by Mr. Malkovich.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
This was my first Kurt Vonnegut novel (not the conventional one to start with, I know) but it is the best novel I've listened to all year. John Malcovich is the perfect reader for this piece as well. Bravo! Excellent overall.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
splendid narration, please do more sir. likely most accessible work of author, bold and important ideas come to light; worthy of our complex times, vaccine to the many ills afflicting our current moment in a still young, confused civilization, with a simple clarity, and so on and so forth, that grows beautifully with repeated listing. love the treatment of author's sketches which I found so unusual and memorable when I first read as a high school student... now more powerful with the wisdom of years, etc. much love and gratitude to creators and all the people of our planet/dreams.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
I love the book. I read it multiple times in different languages, watched the movie so I was really curious how this will be. Especially having JM reading it. And his performance is awesome. I was wondering how it'll be done with the lack of drawings but the way JM explains them is probably the best part of the audiobook. Because, to be honest, this brilliant piece of literature simply is not an audiobook material, even if you have the perfect performer... And I don't think there would be anybody better than JM. I never thought that I would submit a review like that, the highest scores in story and performance but only one star for overall. And yet there I have it and it actually makes perfect sense.
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.
What made the experience of listening to Breakfast of Champions the most enjoyable?
Two iconoclastic talents unite - John Malkovitch is bewitchingly right to read this great writer's most curmudgeonly book. I want this pairing to be used again.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Breakfast of Champions?
It is invidious to pick out a section because all of it is pitch perfect. However, just try the opening dedication if you want to see if this is for you.
excellent book, brilliantly read. I love Vonnegut's sad, funny, intelligent observations about the absurd human race.
Would you listen to Breakfast of Champions again? Why?
I would listen again, simply because it was consistently funny and I can't help but feel I missed some parts taking it all in and laughing.
What did you like best about this story?
I enjoyed the unique perspective he has on every day political issues that are often muddied through the propaganda of politics.
A perfect fit for vonnegut, malkovich's delivery feels tailor made for the narrative and describing the illustrations. A great way to digest this book, recommended.
His writing both fascinates and frustrates me. It brings me pure joy and laughter and at times drones on and becomes boring and yet at the end I'm always satisfied, changed, with new ideas and perspectives and that I think is why I love his work.
I've only read the slaughterhouse 5 before this so this was a major change, as this book is even more absurd and crazy (and slaughterhouse 5 had a time hopping ww2 who lived in space at one point).
John Malkovich is probably the best person to perform this book, he delivers the dry humour of it perfectly, and his voice lends itself to the absurdity of it all.
As for the book itself it's really a breaking down of the human experience to basic elements to tackle subjects like mental illness, racism, oppression etc. More stuff pops up left and right and I think the whole book was just a way for Vonnegut to get a lot of his ideas out of the way.
The book has a lot of pictures I suggest buying a Kindle copy or a print copy to go with the audiobook to see all the drawings.
One of a kind story. All connects madly and meaningfully. Malkovich performance is perfectly suited.
Any additional comments?
From start to finish. My very favourite Vonnegut book so far. An inspired reading by John Malkovich.
I've been a fan of Vonnegut for an exceedingly long time and am currently revisiting his work. This is no Slaughterhouse 5 but still a real entertainment. I loved Vonnegut's imperfectly and inconsistently offbeat view of the world and this is a good example, not so much a story as slow unravelling of a tale, a character and the author.
The only real question mark for me is John Malkovich. I've always loved the man and the voice but here it doesn't quite work. None more so than at the beginning of the book where he struggles with sentences and timing. Still the author and narrator share that curious alien in our world charm and altogether it works.
an actor who reads in a monotone almost all the way . not much acting going on .
What made the experience of listening to Breakfast of Champions the most enjoyable?
I'd read this book many times myself, but its been years. As an older, and more disappointing person I appreciated its themes of nostalgia and lost opportunities far more, and the astounding reading of Malkovich ratcheted the experience up many notches.
Who was your favorite character and why?
You have to love Kilgore Trout - the pseudo-profound almost-was that is a very thinly veiled personification of Vonneguts own fearful self-projection.
What about John Malkovich’s performance did you like?
His voice, my god - there is a thoughtful, learned, refined edge to his voice that makes it one of the best voices in existence in my estimation.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The opening of the book, with it's dedication to a lost friend and lost cultural values is playful, deeply mournful, and has wonderful impact despite being very self deprecating.
Any additional comments?
If you appreciate Vonnegut (and no, this isnt Cats Cradle, or Slaughterhouse 5, his masterpieces) and love the voice of Malkovich, this audiobook will push all your buttons. Vonneguts often unadorned prose doesnt always lend itself to reading aloud, but Malkovich rings every last drop from this one with his inflection and style.
Could stand listening to John Malkovichs voice for more than 5 minutes at a time.
funny, beautiful and inspiring. . . . . . . . . . . . . ect !
Breakfast of Champions is by no means an easy book. It tumbled and meanders, always with one eye loosely tracking the central narrative while the others takes in the voluminous world that Kurt Vonnegut has created.
As a commentary on the failures of modern American capitalism - or capitalism and selfish individualism the world over - the novel challenges the reader to reconsider the price of the world we have created. How much of our planet will remain in years to come? How much of our soul can survive the onslaught of meaninglessness, the constant uncertainty of our place in and of this life?
Vonnegut is always a surprise. His novels are never what I expect and yet they still floor me with expertly crafted imagery and seemingly trite remarks that cut to the very core of what human existence is like.
This is a novel worth anyone's time. It is expertly read by John Malkovich with the kind of indifferent murmuring that it is easy to imagine Vonnegut himself adopting for the bleak truisms that his characters endure. Malkovich is enchanting with his croaking delivery, his voice echoing the uncertainty that Vonnegut's words encourage in mind of his reader.
This is a beautiful and tragic novel - equal parts humorous, shocking, and revealing.
Absolutely worth your time.