Tag: Breakfast of Champions

Holiday Reading

Posted November 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 12 Comments

When you think about the holidays, you tend to associate memories to those locations; the foods you ate, the sights you saw, the moments in your life that are special. I’m not sure if I’m a little different or if there are others but I also associate a book or two with the holidays. Now I was away in Adelaide recently and I got to thinking about this and wondered which books I might associate with this trip.

It is not just the books I’ve read while on holidays, it could all include the books I might have bought while there. It is weird; I associate my honeymoon with Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, while that is nowhere near romantic it was what my new wife was reading when we first got into America. If I actually want to break up my honeymoon a little further so the whole thing is not associated with Vonnegut, I could say I associate Los Angeles with Breakfast of Champions, A Study in Scarlet for Las Vegas (I believe I was reading that at the time) and San Francisco is associated with poems by John Keats, which is more romantic, we saw a movie called Bright Star while in San Fran and I brought a collection of romantic poems from City Lights.

It is not just my Honeymoon; Spain reminds me of The Long Goodbye, driving to Paris reminds me of the God-awful Nowhere Man and Paris itself reminds me of Red Harvest. Two trips to New Zealand included Blood Meridian the first time and The 5th Wave the second (with TransAtlantic the perfect book for the flight). Then there was a recent trip to Melbourne that reminds me of Burial Rites but the lonely trip home reminds me of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and the list goes on. It is interesting how I associate these experiences with books and wonder if people do this with holidays or other moments in your life?

I wonder what my recent trip to Adelaide will be associated with; could it be Barracuda, Solo, Paddle Your Own Canoe or even High Fidelity? Let me know in the comments if you do something similar? I have to think about some key moments in my recent life and see if they are associated with books. I’m not too sure, I do associate one wedding anniversary with a beautiful copy of Frankenstein; I wonder if all those weird books I associate with my marriage says something about me or my marriage?

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Posted July 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt VonnegutTitle: Cat's Cradle (Goodreads)
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Published: Dial Press, 1963
Pages: 287
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

John (Jonah) is an everyman, he tells us about the times he planned to write a book about America and the importance of what they did the day Hiroshima was bombed. He finds himself involved with the children of Felix Hoenikker (a fictional Nobel laureate physicist and known in the book as the father of the atomic bomb). The Hoenikkers lead him to discover a crystal known as Ice-Nine, which they have kept secret and is an alternative structure of water.

Like most of Kurt Vonnegut’s books that I’ve read (with the exception of Breakfast of Champions) Cat’s Cradle is this bizarre journey that isn’t necessarily enjoyable to read but when you finish the book and reflect you start to see the brilliance. I remember with Slaughterhouse-Five when I ended the book I gave it a 2 star rating; it was just plain weird but the book never left my thoughts. I digested what I had read and began to understand and slowly that rating grew and now I think it is a work of genius.

As Cat’s Cradle begins to twist and turn in true Vonnegut style you eventually end up in the bizarre and fictitious island of San Lorenzon. The book continues with more twists until it becomes apparent that Ice-Nine can be a very destructive material. The novel is laced in  laced with irony and parody, this is part of Vonnegut’s satirical humour and you have to except that he knows what he is doing and let him take you on this journey.

What I think Kurt Vonnegut and the narrator of Cat’s Cradle is trying to tell us as readers is the discovery of Ice-Nine can truly benefit mankind but then you find a military application for it and everything changes. This is a warning, with the amazing advances in technology without any growth in an ethical awareness human annihilation is a real possibility. Vonnegut was living in the Nuclear age when this book was written, the threats felt real and it was what had most people worried. The confrontation between technology and morality is ever present within this modern classic.

But there is a parallel (but similar) message running through Cat’s Cradle as well. John is often known as Jonah in the novel and you have to think biblical for this one. Jonah is a biblical prophet that goes to Nineveh (after much drama) and tells them of their destruction. The people repent and God takes pity on them and the city is spared. A symbolic message; a cautionary warning to the readers of Jonah’s (aka John) prophetic findings that could lead to the end of the world.

In true Vonnegut form, this book will take you on an interesting ride with no possible way of predicting the outcome. The book satirises science, technology, the arms race and even organised religion in this classic post-modern sci-fi novel. It is always hard to talk about a Vonnegut book or even try to explain his literary style, but if you like a dark comedy, science fiction or satire novel then Kurt Vonnegut is always a good choice. I would recommend starting with Slaughterhouse-Five as that is probably considered his magnum opus.  Although I wasn’t a fan of Breakfast of Champions, I feel like I’m a true fan of what Vonnegut does and Cat’s Cradle is a good example of that.

What is Metafiction?

Posted August 10, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

I’ve heard a bit of talk about metafiction lately and to be honest I wasn’t sure what it was. The dictionary defines it as; fiction that discusses, describes, or analyses a work of fiction or the conventions of fiction. That didn’t really help me with understanding the concept in greater detail. After further investigations I found the most common types of metafiction and some examples of each one;

  • A novel about a writer creating a story (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).
  • A novel about a reader reading a novel (The Princess Bride)
  • A novel which features itself as its own prop or McGuffin (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
  • A novel within the novel (The Man in the High Castle, Sophie’s World or The Princess Bride).
  • A novel wherein the author (not merely the narrator) is a character (Breakfast of Champions or Slaughterhouse Five)
  • A non-linear novel, which can be read in any order other than from beginning to end (Finnegans Wake).
  • Merging characters or elements from diverse works of fiction into a new fictional scenario (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)

There are many more scenarios of metafiction out there and the more you think about it the more books start to fit. I just though I would give some examples so you can better understand metafiction too. If you have some interesting examples of metafiction please feel free to let me know.

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The Author-Reader Relationship

Posted February 17, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Writing / 0 Comments

Like Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions left me with a lot to think about. In the mists of this satirical story there is a whole other element; the book explores the effects of an author-reader relationship, mainly with Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover. The book the sent Dwayne Hoover was in the form of a letter from the creature telling the reader he is the only real person in the world, everyone else were robots, and later in the epilogue the creator has a conversation with Trout.

It’s an interesting concept, and one I haven’t really thought about before, but it is something to ponder.