Scribbling Again

Month: July, 2012

Breakfast of Champions’ Chapter 16-End

I progressively noted less and less but here are the rest of my responses. I skipped the chapters where nothing struck me.

Chapter 18

“Where other people in the cocktail lounge had eyes, I [Vonnegut] had two holes into another universe. I had leaks” (197)

Here is a manifesto for what the author does. She/He reflects our state, ourselves back at us. Authors provide a distant look at ourselves which reveals the most essential and often obvious pieces of us. But only through the distance of another galaxy or a fictional world can we clearly see the obvious facts of our identity.

N.B. –  On 204 the blood and milk mixing together and ending up in Sacred Miracle Cave hints at a connection between the beginning and end of life. Blood suggests death while milk suggests infancy. The cave might suggest a womb and its title points to the possibility of miracles. The undercurrent of the miracle of birth leads to some kind of hope or rejuvenations that might assure us. An ouroboros appears on the next page sealing the deal that this is about the endless hope of rejuvenation. We then have to ask whether or not the hope will ever shine through which the book seems to deny. Perhaps this points only to the possibility of rejuvenation rather than its actuality, or this merely depicts the unending cycle we all live under.

Chapter 19

“Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery” (226)

Which harkens back to the idea that systems of thought or the essence of what an individual believes is the most important thing about them. Awareness, perspective, personality are all ways of expressing our fundamental systems of understanding.

Chapter 20

“I see exactly what I expect to see. I see a man who is terribly wounded–because he has dared to pass through the fires of truth to the other side, which we have never seen. And then he has come back again–to tell us about the other side” (240)

I like the lack of consolation for the world here. Also I like that Trout’s message is more of the same. More like the repetitious nature of mirrors which show us an understanding of ourselves than the bold truth he first thought to espouse. Mirrors only reflect but we desperately need them. We need repetition because we do not recognize things about ourselves the first time.

Epilogue

“Trout felt nothing now that millions of other people wouldn’t have felt–automatically” (289)

Trout connects with a unified experience rather than the solipsistic vision of shocking everyone else with his message. He moved away from the solipsism of that novel that drove Dwayne crazy.

And that’s all I’ve got.

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Breakfast of Champions’ Chapters 11-15

Chapter 11

“Sugar creek flooded now and then. Dwayne remembered about that. In a land so flat, flooding was a queerly pretty thing for water to do. Sugar Creek brimmed over silently, formed a vast mirror in which children might safely play. The mirror showed the citizens the shape of the valley they lived in, demonstrated that they were hill people who inhabited slopes rising one inch for every mile that separated them from Sugar Creek” (97)

That explains all the mirrors. The novel utilizes mirrors as a third person perspective in order for the viewer to see themselves as they actually appear. Sugar Creek shows its viewers where they live and who they are. The part of the quotation beginning at “who inhabited” and going to the end conveys where they exist in space and in relation to the Creek, the revealer itself. Stay with me though, that last part only matters because it separates the citizens from itself. Trout describes mirrors on page 19 as depicting another universe meaning that we must be removed from reality in order to see it. We do not see things as they exist. We exist in a world of thought and it takes a complete physical removal like being in another universe in order to see oneself and the world as it exists.  Also a flood could be thought of as a leak of sorts. Pun away Vonneboy.

Chapter 12

“Neither one of them was a veteran” (106)

In context this clarifies Trout and the truck driver’s military service, but it also emphasizes how neither of them get a second chance in life. Everyone is an amateur at life and the most important moments in life are determined by dry runs. No one knows what to say in dangerous or high pressure scenarios. They just go through them with whatever they have.

Chapter 13

“It never was real easy to see,” said Lyle, speaking of the cross. “I ain’t even sure it’s there anymore” (120)

Contextually this is about The Sacred Miracle in Sacred Miracle Cave. Here is both the novel’s dismissal of a single cure for life’s problems and slight validation for Trout’s ideas last chapter that everything appears necessary. Necessary because overwhelming change will inevitably come. Things merely are.

Chapter 14

“The rights of the people on top of the ground don’t amount to nothing compared to the rights of the man who owns what’s underneath” (130)

Which appears to me as a loaded metaphor that emphasizes the supremacy of essence over anything else. This goes back to how the way we think about things and the systems we use to arrive at our conclusions are more important in understanding an individual than the conclusions themselves.

Chapter 15

Another stroke of darkness on page 144, the Bannister Kid’s Law is junked in favor of modernizing communication rather than remembering human life and Vonnegut leaves us this nugget.

“But nobody ever though about him anymore by the time Dwayne Hoover met Kilgore Trout. There wasn’t much to think about him, actually, even at the time of his death, except that he was young”

He was just an ideal of youth, a reminder of a happier time for everyone that didn’t last.

N.B. – The Bannister fieldhouse not only commemorates the lost possibility and vitality of Hickman but also that of Patty Keene considering her rape in the building parking lot.

“That was the main reason the people in Midland City were so slow to detect insanity in their associates. Their imaginations insisted that nobody changed much from day to day. Their imaginations were flywheels on the ramshackle machinery of the awful truth” (146-7)

Sounds like a good definition of insanity to me. Again this shows the mind’s incredible power and the implicit weakness within that power. We can make anything appear true (for ourselves at least).

“Sometimes I wonder about the Creator of the Universe” (163)

Yeah, me too pal.

Breakfast of Champions’ Chapters 6-10

Some more thoughts and responses.

Chapter 6

“There were two full moons. The new Mildred Barry Memorial Center for the Arts was a translucent sphere on stilts, and it was illumined from the inside now–and it looked like a moon” (65)

This pairs nicely with the idea in the preface of duality and the difference between things like Armistice Day and Veterans’ Day. Here the man-made inorganic attempts to replicate the natural. This might correlate with Dwayne coming to an awareness that isn’t quite revealed at the end of the chapter. But I’d bet he’s realizing that all these inorganic replicas of success and happiness (money, property, etc.) or companionship (his dog) don’t quite scratch the itch. The imagery might also refer back to how everyone often quantifies other people as machines. The moon and the structure suggest the difference between seeing people simply as simple and singular things whereas the moon hints at a more organic system closer to how humans actually exist. That gets clearer for me when I think about how the moon has cycles and a natural movement throughout space and time that the dome does not.

Chapter 7

“It fills such a need, this machine, and it’s so easy to operate” (69)

Trout’s talking about the projector in the dirty movie theater he tries sleeping in. I interpret the projector as suggesting all those little things we domineer in order to feel in control of our lives. Just as it’s so easy and tempting to think we are the only ones on Earth with free will or the ability to feel pain, etc. People need some real or imagined sense of power to affirm their existence. Infinitesimal things like this machine allow us a small assurance that we can change the world.

Chapter 8

“Their childhoods were over. They were dying now” (74)

I like how simple both of these sentences are and how quickly they express that increased understanding faced by anyone who leaves childhood. One doesn’t have to attain adulthood to learn the fear of living. All you have to do is leave childhood and all those nightmares you didn’t even know existed will stare you down.

The Pluto Gang (76-8) – Illustrates the importance of ideas and how slippery our understanding of the world is. The Pluto Gang grows out of a small comment Trout made and soon enough the word spreads that this group (which doesn’t exist) exists and is incredibly dangerous. This demonstrates both the mind’s constructive capability and our insane capacity to believe anything.

I didn’t have anything for chapters 9 & 10.

Any thoughts on Breakfast of Champions?

Breakfast of Champions’ First Five Chapters

Some thoughts that I decided to write about. They might be mediocre but it made me write.

Chapter 1

“Of all the creatures in the Universe, only Dwayne was thinking and feeling and worrying and planning and so on. Nobody else knew what pain was. Nobody else had any choices to make. Everybody else was a fully automatic machine, whose purpose was to stimulate Dwayne. Dwayne was a new type of creature being tested by the Creator of the Universe. Only Dwayne Hoover had free will.” (14-5)

Judging from the Preface this might be one of Vonnegut’s fears regarding his novels. Rather than showing the reader all the different conflicts and complexities in the existence of another person he fears that each work focuses too heavily on the reader’s reading experience. Also note that Dwayne believes this to be true and so it becomes true for him independent of reality. This emphasis on the power of the mind is also shown in Trout’s epitaph “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane” (16). And that’s the truth. It matters more how we think and how we process information than what we think often times. Hamlet out of context would say “thinking makes it so” and he’s right.

Chapter 2

Note how Dwayne’s dog Sparky cannot communicate his true emotions much like the people Dwayne deems incapable of free will, understanding of pain, etc. (17).

Note also how Heliogabalus cages human torment in the body of a giant metal animal suggesting our incredible ability to reduce or mute people’s sufferings merely because they are less real to us. This also connects nicely with Trout and Dwayne’s selfishness and how both of their closest companions are animals rather than people (although admittedly Dwayne’s case isn’t quite as cut and dry it does seem clear that Sparky’s the closest living being to him).

“There were two monsters sharing this planet with us when I was a boy, however and I celebrate their extinction today…They inhabited our heads. They were the arbitrary lusts for gold, and God help us, for a glimpse of a little girl’s underpants.

I thank those lusts for being so ridiculous for they taught us that it was possible for a human being to believe anything and to behave passionately in keeping with that belief – any belief” (25)

This passage refers again to the power of the human mind and its incredible ability to organize the world independently of truth about that reality. Here at least our vanity and absurdity are reminders of the overwhelming fecundity we have rather than mere reminders of how arbitrarily we assign value.

Chapter 3

“His high school was named after a slave owner who was also one of the world’s greatest theoreticians on the subject of human liberty” (34)

There’s at least one more example of this a little later, but here Jefferson demonstrates how one can build a whole world and profess belief in it without actually acting upon those ideas. The power of thinking allowed him to create and lock all those notions away in the vault of abstraction. This connects well with the last quotation I cited above.

Chapter 4

“Why me?” said Harry. This was a common question in Midland City. People were always asking that as they were loaded into ambulances after accidents of various kinds, or arrested for disorderly conduct or burglarized or socked in the nose and so on: “Why me?” (43-4)

This is Quintessential Trout philosophy (based on chapter 1) which the book villainizes. Most everyone wants to ask this question and/or wallow in self-pity, but Trout’s insane cynicism in the dialogue with the truck driver gives at least a little hope of accepting and moving past the pains of existence. Like a lot of other authors Vonnegut wants us to see the real struggles and selves of each character rather than believing that only we suffer or doubt ourselves or fail, etc. Similar to John Green or David Foster Wallace it seems pretty clear that KV wants readers to understand they are not alone.

Chapter 5

Note that the thing which appears to be so repulsive and gross about the dirty movie shows in Trout’s imagined novel (58-61) is their deceit. The natural food in the film and that the whores offer cannot exist. Obviously that mirrors how porn places all these false ideas in our heads about sex and physical expectations. But this anecdote also calls into question the importance of the arbitrary. In Trout’s book it just happens to be food rather than sex allowing the reader (of Vonnegut’s novel) a subject matter with fewer connotations and a less conditioned moral response. Vonnegut’s writing style throughout the novel focuses on treating Earth like an alien planet complete with explanations and pictures that no earthling needs. The novel does this so we question our assumptions about the world.

What did you find interesting about the novel? The quotations? Or Vonnegut?