2 1/2 stars.
Kurt Vonnegut is undoubtedly a good writer. The trouble is, that I enjoyed the introduction where he was describing his own experiences much more than the bulk of the book where he told us Billy Pilgrim's story. Kurt himself is a more interesting person than Billy. Or maybe I just didn't like the fact that we had to decide whether Billy was crazy or really was kidnapped by Tralfamadorians. Typically, in a book where we're left to decide if something is imagined or real I will imagine that it's real, but I just couldn't this time. The Tralfamadorians are too bizarre and their concept of time is too unbelievable. I didn't like the descriptions of Billy's time on Tralfamadore, or the fact that in an earlier part of the book we were told that 'Billy was cheating on his wife for the first and only time,' but if Tralfamadore was real, than he cheated on his wife multiple times with the movie star who the Tralfamadorians had also kidnapped. Kilgore Trout's ideas about re-writing the Gospels say to me that he (so possibly Vonnegut) didn't truly understand who Jesus is and what he did. Though the rewrite came with the question "why are so many Christians so Cruel?" so I suppose that it may be that it isn't intended to be taken seriously, but simply ask the question, "if this was the way the Gospels were written, would less Christians commit evil acts?" I doubt it. If a Christian is willing to commit atrocities with the Bible the way it is, why the heck would the care if Jesus hadn't been the Son of God until after His death?
There was too much sex in this book for my liking. The members of the Beaumont township in Footloose may have been wrong for judging this book only from of its' name, but they likely would have decided to burn it even if they had read it.
Oddly enough, I had never heard of the bombing of Dresden. I knew that Berlin and some other German cities had been bombed toward the end of the war, and I focused on WWII in my final year of high school, but if the bombing of Dresden was mentioned in any of the books I read or any of the documentaries I watched, they must have skimmed over the horror of it, or made the claim that it had to happen. I don't know if there were places in Dresden that were helping the German war effort. I don't know if there were places whose destruction helped the Allies, but I believe that the firebombing of Dresden without consideration for the refugees and other innocent civilians, or even the slightest attempt to avoid residential areas was wrong.
I was surprised that Billy Pilgrim was based of a real person, Edward Crone, who the author named in his interview at the end of the audiobook version I listened to. Even though the man gave up, didn't eat and died, his family was likely still alive and even though the majority of Billy's actions were not dishonorable, his bizarre belief that he had been kidnapped by aliens might bother the family of the very real Edward Crone.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. The writing was excellent, but there was a great deal of profanity, and I couldn't quite follow the story of Billy Pilgrim, who I had difficulty caring about as his narration jumped all over the place. I've seen Christian criticism of the book for the profanity and for the rewritten fake Gospel, but I hadn't seen that at the time I picked it up. I really don't know how I feel about this book.
One of the disadvantages of electronic downloads is that you lose physically obvious metadata - by which I mean the size of the literary object you've acquired. This is a short story of 13-15 pp., probably originally published in a magazine. It has all the hallmarks of a good science fiction story of its era: quick dystopian world-building, a few sharply, even harshly, delineated characters, and a single disturbing event that leaves you pondering. The dystopia in this case is a world where illness and natural death are defeated, and population control is carried out by state-enforced euthanasia, and through a set of social norms (the elderly must agree to be killed to make way for the babies). I wondered as I read whether Vonnegut was thinking of the similar, but differently resolved, dystopia of the least-known destination in Gulliver's Travels, the nation of the Struldbrugs. Anyway, disappointed though I was not to have a Vonnegut novel in my hands, I enjoyed reading this little thought-jolter.
As a huge fan of Vonnegut, I was looking forward to reading Breakfast of Champions as one of his most famous works beside Slaughterhouse Five. As always, he keeps his syntax and sentence structure fairly simple, which for me is a main component of the charm of his writing.
Breakfast of Champions was definitely not the most fun to read, though. This was by far the most sarcastic and/or cynical of Vonneguts novels that I have read, some parts of it have quite a dark turn to them, others get even scary. Especially the pieces, which are autobiographically inspired – for example, when he writes about his fear of actually having inherited his mothers schizophrenia – were sometimes borderline scary or desperate to read, which is quite unusual for his writing.
Sometimes, it felt like reading a manual on humans and their life on earth, written for a foreign species. The writing style is fairly simple, easy to understand and absolutely honest. Vonnegut himself added numerous drawings to his book, therefore it is by far the most excessively illustrated book I have ever seen (children’s books excluded, of course).
At some point, the book turns meta, introducing the narrator, who significantly calls himself „I, the author“ and who kind of participates in the story he himself creates.