Vonnegut, Kurt. Breakfast of champions. New York: Dell, 1973. 295pp.
Vonnegut died a little while ago and I thought I'd dig up one of his novels I'd never read and give it a try, and Breakfast of champions was the one I found first in the vast recesses of my personal library. Now, I never discovered Vonnegut as a teen, the time that most people who are most passionate about him seem to clue in. Vonnegut, like Dick or Ellison or Lovecraft, seems to speak most directly to the emerging adult, the insecurities, the cynicism mixed with idealism, the smart-aleciness. I certainly remember one of my best friends back in the late high school, early college era really catching the Vonnegut bug and endlessly spouting quotes and aphorisms. For some reason, thought, it didn't happen to me with Vonnegut -- although in spades for Dick, Ellison and Lovecraft, of course.
I have read a bunch of Vonnegut novels since leaving my teen years, and mostly liked them quite a bit if not quite with that all-consuming passion of the real devotee. Breakfast of champions is mostly considered middle range Vonnegut, not his best but not his worst either. And I have to say that's my opinion too. Loosely plotted around his signiture character, sf author Kilgore Trout, traveling to a conference to accept an award and the various other characters directly and indirectly involved, it's an amusing romp, full of Vonnegut's trademark gentle humour and biting satire. A kind of world-weariness mixed with optimism, if you will. Good stuff, if not quite gripping or compelling.