Posted in Books in General

Anniversary the Third!

Today is the third anniversary of Mirror with Clouds!  It’s been an interesting, informative and all around great three years and I’m looking forward to year #4.  It’s become my anniversary tradition to post some of my favorite quotations from the past year – so here they are!

These mystic creatures, suddenly translated by night from unutterable solitudes to our peopled deck, affected me in a manner not easy to unfold.  They seemed newly crawled forth from beneath the foundations of the world.  Yea, they seemed the identical tortoises whereon the Hindu plants this total sphere.  With a lantern I inspected them more closely.  Such worshipful venerableness of aspect!  Such furry greenness mantling the rude peelings and healing the fissures of their shattered shells.  I no more saw three tortoises.  They expanded – became transfigured.  I seemed to see three Roman Coliseums in magnificent decay.

– From Herman Melville’s “The Encantadas” (a reference to the tortoises found on the Encantadas, also known as the Galapagos Islands)


In the morning there was a big wind blowing and the waves were running high up on the beach and he was awake a long time before he remembered that his heart was broken.

-From Ernest Hemingway’s “Ten Indians”


Something quite remote from anything the builders intended has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time: a small red flame – a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design, relit before the beaten-copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem.  It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones.

-From Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited


He did not believe that he himself was formed in the image of God but that Bishop was he had no doubt.  The little boy was part of a simple equation that required no further solution, except at the moments when with little or no warning he would feel himself overwhelmed by the horrifying love.  Anything he looked at too long could bring it on.  Bishop did not have to be around.  It could be a stick or a stone, the line of a shadow, the absurd old man’s walk of a starling crossing the sidewalk.  If, without thinking, he lent himself to it, he would feel suddenly a morbid surge of the love that terrified him – powerful enough to throw him to the ground in an act of idiot praise.  It was completely irrational and abnormal.

-From Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away


“It’s terrible sometimes, inside,” he said, “that’s what’s the trouble.  You walk these streets, black and funky and cold, and there’s not really a living ass to talk to, and there’s nothing shaking, and there’s no way of getting it out – that storm inside.  You can’t talk it and you can’t make love with it, and when you finally try to get with it and play it, you realize nobody’s listening.  So you’ve got to listen.  You got to find a way to listen.”

-From James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”


And then Trout, with his wound dressed, would walk out into the unfamiliar city.  He would meet his Creator, who would explain everything.

-From Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions



Posted in Fiction

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut is an equal opportunity offender.  Published in 1973, Vonnegut scathingly satirizes society, art, religion, politics, and just people in general.  I have to laugh imagining readers who don’t quite understand sarcasm getting red in the face with anger as they read Vonnegut’s barbs.  Regardless of whether one is liberal, conservative or something else – he’s making fun of YOU!


A plot does exist in this story.  Pontiac dealer Dwayne Hoover (what a 1970’s name!) wants to know the meaning of life so he heads to the Midland City Art Festival.  Kilgore Trout, a (more or less) renowned author and recurring Vonnegut character, has been asked to speak at the festival – much to his surprise.  The story revolves around these two characters separately traveling to the festival and the whacky characters they meet along the way.

I could talk about the profanities and obscenities that abound throughout the narrative in both word and pictures and how 90% of them are very tongue-in-cheek, but most readers are going to find them either funny or offensive – not much middle ground.

The sheer genius of this work, though, has nothing to do with what could potentially get this novel banned by less than free-thinking politicians.  Vonnegut puts himself in his novel as a character, but it isn’t as a fictional character – it’s his real self.  For much of the novel, he is sitting in the cocktail lounge of the Midland City Holiday Inn wearing mirror sunglasses.  I don’t think any author has ever given me a more vivid picture.  While he is sitting there, he contemplates what to do with his characters who are mingling at the bar or waiting on customers.  Vonnegut does this in a beautifully seamless manner that has no hint of a gimmick.  I won’t soon forget a scene like this:

And I sat there in the new Holiday Inn, and made it disappear, then appear again, then disappear, then appear again.  Actually, there was nothing but a big open field there.  A farmer had put it into rye.

It was high time, I thought, for Trout to meet Dwayne Hoover, for Dwayne to run amok.

I knew how this book would end.  Dwayne would hurt a lot of people.  He would bite off one joint of the right index finger of Kilgore Trout.

And then Trout, with his wound dressed, would walk out into the unfamiliar city.  He would meet his Creator, who would explain everything.