Ever feel like a character in one of those bad sci-fi movies where time becomes a loop? The ones where the hero makes some amazing and slightly eerie discovery, which takes him on a wild and strange journey which comes to an explosive! climax, and then the guy wakes up and it was all a dream, or was it? Well, that's how I feel now that I've re-read Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Breakfast of Champions.
Long, long ago, and I mean, in a galaxy far, far away, when I was fifteen or so, I read Breakfast of Champions and three or four other Vonnegut books. I loved them all. They must have made some sort of searing imprint on my then-gelatinous soul. After that, I moved on. But for many years--in fact, right up until the present day, Kurt Vonnegut was one of my most-read authors. (The others are Barbara Tuchman, umm, J.R. R. Tolkien, Jim Thompson, and if you count pages instead of number of books-read, the stupendous biographer and historian Robert Caro.)
So I picked up a €1 used-copy of Breakfast of Champions about three months ago, and I read it again, voraciously, this week. I loved it again. It made me ashamed to call myself a writer. Motherfucker compacts incisive philosophical deathblows, outraged politico insights and then penis jokes into 25-word masterpiece sentences. Narrative left-turns that make me cackle with joy. Writing with black black humor and a big heart.
And I feel like I'm living in a re-run. Because as I read'em, I can remember that these sentences made me want to write! All those years ago. Now they make me want to be a better writer. Even though I've been doing it for more than thirty years, I can't even touch this guy. This fuzzy-headed, tired-eyes-having, aggressive mustache man was so funny and sharp and brutal and right.
But I guess this gives me something to shoot for in the next thirty years.