Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

Science fiction has always been my favourite genre. I strongly believe that a good science fiction writer is a boon and literally shows us the future. Think of cell phones and Arthur C Clarke and Star Trek. Think of private space tourism and interstellar travel. At the same time, however, science fiction is not just about space and technology. Science fiction is also about assuming what can be in the realm of science - be it biology, physics or even psychology. The games minds play on humans is also a branch of science fiction - albeit not the one that I prefer.

I also believe that is another genre of writing which is a form of inconsequential conversation i.e putting pen to paper and then letting the characters and the story write itself just putting down whatever comes to mind at that moment and building from there till the next idea strikes. The best book in that 'genre' is probably The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which I absolutely adore. It is a book that can put a smile to your face whenever you read it. The idea is to go with the flow and enjoy the author's meanderings.

'Breakfast of Champions' belongs to a combination of the above two 'genres' - science fiction psychology with an inconsequential conversation form of writing. Unfortunately it does not match up to either of the best-of-breed writing. It seems like a book that Vonnegut actually wrote when he was absolutely bored with life and just wanted to write something. There is no real storyline other than how the paths of the two central characters - one an author who unknowingly becomes famous for his science fiction stories published in porn magazine and the other a successful car dealer with brain clots who believes that in the author's one particular story and goes berserk.

Does it make sense? It didn't to me and I struggled to find some sense of purpose in the book. Sad to say, I was unsuccessful. The books is peppered with drawings of tangential things to the story as if Vonnegut just wanted to draw something at that moment and so did it. These drawings have little or no connection to the story in itself.

Vonnegut is hailed as one of the best satirical authors of all times. Unfortunately his satire and subtle plays on racism, dark underbelly of society and America's degradation is lost on me. The book probably makes a great reading for literature grads in peeling away the layers of writing and reading between the lines. For me however, give me a simple straight forward book anytime. This one didn't appeal to me.

You could check out some other reviews here and here to get a counterpoint.

I would rate it 1/5 if only to appreciate the 'effort' gone into 'writing' this book.

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