Thursday, September 25, 2008

"They had sold everything that was any good, and there wasn't anything to eat anymore, and still the people went on fucking all the time."

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.


matt said...

Hi Pat. Could you get in touch about Austin/punk/hardcore. Thanks. Matt

Steve Collier said...

I too was blown away by this book in junior high. Your post really makes me want to read it again.
And BTW-Happy Birthday!
I hope it was a good one. My e-mail address I have for you doesn't seem to work anymore. Is there a new one I should use or are you just avoiding me?

pat said...

Hey Ganze: Thanks! I'll have a new e-mail addy soon and I'll get it to you!
Hi Matt: Okay, but how do I get in touch with you? Have we met?