Hear Kurt Vonnegut’s Very First Public Reading from Breakfast of Champions (1970)

When we think of Kurt Von­negut, we tend to think of Slaugh­ter­house-Five. Maybe we also think of the short sto­ry “Har­ri­son Berg­eron,” which gets assigned in class by slight­ly alter­na­tive-mind­ed Eng­lish teach­ers. Now that I think about it, I real­ize that those two works of Von­negut’s have both become movies: George Roy Hill’s Slaugh­ter­house-Five hit the­aters in 1972, and Bruce Pittman’s Har­ri­son Berg­eron debuted on Show­time in 1995. But the beloved­ly cyn­i­cal writer pro­duced four­teen nov­els, eight sto­ry col­lec­tions, and five books of essays, and even if we just explore fur­ther into those adapt­ed for the screen, we find a per­haps under-dis­cussed piece of Von­negutia: Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons, his 1973 fol­low-up to Slaugh­ter­house-Five.

The nov­el exam­ines Dwayne Hoover, a deeply trou­bled Pon­ti­ac sales­man obsessed with the writ­ings of pulp sci-fi author Kil­go­re Trout. You may remem­ber Trout from his role in Von­negut’s pre­vi­ous book, whose “unstuck-in-time” pro­tag­o­nist Bil­ly Pil­grim he invites to his wed­ding anniver­sary. Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons sets Trout on a col­li­sion course with Hoover in the fic­tion­al Amer­i­can town of Mid­land City, bring­ing in a great vari­ety of char­ac­ters, themes, and ele­ments from Von­negut’s oth­er work in so doing. In the clip above, you can hear the author’s very first pub­lic read­ing of the book, record­ed on May 4, 1970 at New York’s 92nd Street Y. After it became avail­able to read­ers three years lat­er, Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons would become a favorite among the Von­negut faith­ful. The 1999 Bruce Willis-star­ring film adap­ta­tion… less so.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kurt Von­negut Reads from Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Vonnegut’s Eight Tips on How to Write a Good Short Sto­ry

Kurt Von­negut: “How To Get A Job Like Mine” (2002)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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