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7
Oct 02
Mon

Galapagos and Breakfast of Champions

I picked up Galapagos in Dymocks after Fuzzy mentioned it. I’ve never read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s books before, but after reading the first few sample chapters of it on Amazon, decided it was interesting enough to buy. Vonnegut is a highly satirical and highly cynical author, especially about contemporary American culture and society. Galapagos is a satirical, wryly humourous book about all of humanity. It’s about the evolution of humans who get stranded on Galapagos (where Darwin originally developed his ideas of evolutionary theory). The humans seem to “de-evolve” into seal-like creatures. Basically, the book takes a look at whether our brain really is the pinnacle of evolution or not, given that it is the sole attribute which has allowed us to rape our planet in the way we have:

To the credit of humanity as it used to be: more and more people were saying that their brains were irresponsible, unreliable, hideously dangerous, wholly unrealistic – were simply no damn good. In the microcosm of Hotel El Dorado, for example, widow Mary Hepburn, who had been taking all her meals in her room, was cursing her own brain sotto voce for the advice it was giving her, which was to commit suicide.

It also raises the question, why is the brain considered an evolutionary step forward? It’s thought provoking, enjoyable fun, although Vonnegut has this quirky habit of repeatedly telling us what is going to happen later in the book. But I guess it’s the ideas he’s raising and not so much the plot, which is just a ridiculous, fabulously interconneted vehicle used to get his message across. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Breakfast of Champions is a weird book. It seems to be a mishmash of characters and ideas from other books he’s written, plus things from Vonnegut’s own life. In fact, he himself narates the story as a character within the story, but as also the author of the story. The epilogue actually has him screaming out to one of his characters, “I’m your creator!” Although the book has such a weird feel to it, you can still draw out his satirical observations on society and the people within it. Hard to explain, you have to read it. Breakfast is not as enjoyable as say, Galapagos, given its unconventionality (it gave me a headache at times), but that seems to be the way Vonnegut is.

Responses:

I own the collected works of Vonnegut for much the same reason as I own the collected works of Robert J. Sawyer, Orson Scott Card, Phillip K. Dick, J.D. Salinger and Stephen Chbosky (to mention a few). It is just the right blend of style and substance. too flashy, and its a pop phenomenon, too substantial and its a technical text. sometimes you can have all of both, but not often.

enjoy vonnegut, BoC is my personal favourite, although SF5 was a better novel… Player Piano is quite a read too…
Kev

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