Posts tagged ‘Breakfast of Champions’


This is a question I often ask myself of the author while I read his novel. How many of the characteristics of a main or minor character are yours?

I’ve recently finished reading Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a strange, enjoyable read. In the book, one of the characters is the creator of the characters in the story which makes for a strange interaction. The ‘author’ character refers to elements of his past. I’ve also recently completed reading And So It Goes by Charles J. Shields, and all the facts and incidents mentioned by the ‘author’ character are also true for Vonnegut.

As in the above, what I like to do when I find an author whose work I enjoy is seek out facts about the mind behind the words by reading their biography. Here’s a sampling of whose fiction I’ve enjoyed and whose lives I wanted to discover.

I expect that you know by now that I enjoy writing horror. One of my favorite authors of the genre is H. P. Lovecraft. I have a volume of his complete works and occasionally visit the volume to enjoy a short story or one of his longer works. His writing is quite dated but I find the worlds he creates interesting.   Lovecraft gave birth to a subgenre of horror which lives on. Sometime ago I read a biography of his short life. I recall he died around the age of 49. He initially fancied himself a poet but eventually fell into horror much to our benefit.

Frederick Exley is a writer I found to be both funny and sad. For a great read, find a copy of his novel, A Fan’s Notes, a work following the career of Frank Gifford and is a weakly veiled account of Exley. The biography of Exley I read confirmed this. As an example of Exley’s outlook, in one episode of the book the main character thinks he is dying. He decides to practically take up residence in a bar and then relates how he gained twenty pounds while wasting away from cancer. You’ve got to feel sorry for the guy and yet love him. As I said, funny but sad.

Jack Kerouac is another author I enjoy and read his biography. His classic novel, On the Road, closely reflects his life with the names changed to protect the guilty.

So many authors endure lives that are far from pleasant, something I’ll touch on in a latter post concerning the merits of good vs bad in an author and his characters. But with their many and sometimes tragic faults, we readers reap the rewards of their work.

So back to my original question to you writers: How much of your characters reflect details of your life? As far as my work is concerned, there is one character in my novel, New Moon Rising, who is me, and I’d like to challenge my readers to name the character and reap a reward.

To be continued…

September 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment


If you’ve read Slaughterhouse – Five: A Children’s Crusade and enjoyed the hell out of it as I did, you owe it to yourself to read this biography and get to know the man behind the work. Reading about Vonnegut’s life and his journey on the rocky road to fame gives you a background into the birth of his novels and will encourage you to read more. I plan to seek out Breakfast of Champions and Cat’s Cradle to my to-read list. One event described in the book that deeply affected Vonnegut’s family life was the death of his brother-in-law in 1958 and I have a vivid memory of that tragic accident for I visited the site shortly after it happened. A train bound for New York was about to cross the Newark-Bayonne Bridge over the Newark Bay. The bridge was open for a passing barge, and as the train approached to open bridge the engineer suffered a heart attack. The fireman tried to stop the train but couldn’t. Two engines and three passenger cars plunged into the bay with the loss of 47 lives. I still recall pictures published in Life magazine taken while the cars were being raised from the water with bodies hanging from the windows. Published photos were more graphic back then. Perhaps it was the next day when, after school, I walked to the local library annex, one of my favorite places. I was eleven. The library was a short distance from school and it feels like kids had more freedom then, even in a rough town like Newark you were able to wander on your own. After settling in, my sister found me and said my family was outside in our car and that I should come along. They were heading for the train wreck. As were approached the bridge there were cars parked all along the road. Coming upon the scene I remember one car still dangling from the track and partially in the water. Everything else was still submerged. Sorry for the digression. Vonnegut’s brother-in-law’s wife, the writer’s sister, died the same day and Vonnegut wound up supporting their four sons. I took a little detour with the above memory, but once again, this is a biography worth reading.

April 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm Leave a comment


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