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BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

A NOVEL

The thinking man's pop writer," apocalyptic fancifier, convinced moralist, and cheerful doomsayer has now in his fiftieth year "resolved to shun storytelling" and write about life as it reaches its extinction in this the year of our Lord or maybe the next one and via Kilgore Trout, the "only hero of our age" whom Eliot Rosewater introduced years ago, and also via one Dwayne Hoover, a Pontiac dealer whose wife had earlier eaten Drano and who now runs amok on that great Interstate which reaches from here to the void. AMEN. This then has something to do with — in fact everything to do with — the world in which we live with death and chemicals (they're the ones that have sent Dwayne Hoover on his way) and pollution and population and it follows Dwayne as he leaves Midland City through a number of Holiday Inns (they serve the Breakfast of Champions in their cocktail lounge — it's a martini by the way) and Burger Chefs all the way to West Virginia, demolished, and back to the final rampage in which Dwayne shoots up a whole hospital emergency room full of people before he's subdued by two policemen on the Median Divider. AMEN. All of this is told in Mr. Vonnegut's appropriately discontinuous fashion from deceptive non to as the crow flies sequitur and there are magic marker pictures comic-stripped in throughout the text including an AJAX truck and a mechanical beetle made by the Germans and an electric chair. Carpe diem before the day is all over and obviously a great many people will.

Pub Date: May 14, 1973

ISBN: 0385334206

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1973

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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