Annotation by Neal Bonser
Wow. What to say about this one. First, and most uselessly, I enjoyed it quite a bit. But like I’ve said and I’m sure many before have said: tell me a story, make me want to turn the page. And in spite of all the meta-goings on in the novel, there was always that story and the building of suspense (in that curious way that you can build suspense by telling the reader what is going to happen) as Trout and Hoover made their way towards their unforeseen (by them, anyway) rendezvous.
Interestingly, this book made me think of In Cold Blood where two points of view exist simultaneously as they head toward a collision course. Funny that this novel and that one could, structurally at least, have so much in common. In both works, we know the meeting of the two points of view will have tragic results. In both works, the points of view alternate and build in suspense. Capote is virtually a character in his own work by virtue of it being a nonfiction novel and his cult of personality. Vonnegut is a character in his novel. Maybe somebody should write a critical paper comparing In Cold Blood and Breakfast of Champions. Maybe not.
About the drawings. I’m left wondering why he chose to put these in. They seemed clever at first, but became a bit wearing after a while. Kind of undermining some of the serious notes the novel struck upon at times. They were fun. And the other thing they allowed for was white space. I’m a believer in the value of white space and the break for the eye it gives the reader. I love short chapters and page breaks when I’m reading. Having the drawings added interest and white space and kind of made the thing brisk and easy to read. So, maybe a double-edged sword on the drawings.
Oh, and before I forget. Vonnegut’s funny. I love funny.
I usually try to steer my annotations toward my own writing and how reading this particular novel may or may not influence my writing or may have informed it in some way. With Vonnegut, I just don’t see it affecting my writing. I love the easy, conversational flow of the prose, its fluidity—something I aspire to. The whole thing about the reader turning the page—that certainly applies. I don’t know that any of this has affected me as a writer because they are things I already believed. I did note with interest when reading Steve Almond’s essays on Vonnegut the quote about writing over and over again about your family. This is certainly what I do. It seems I’m perpetually working out in my head issues of the life I’ve chosen (mainstream—two kids, two-car garage), my marriage, my disease. But it’s always subconsciously rendered. I’m still always just trying to tell the story and not suck. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad Vonnegut was working through similar issues. And he certainly does not suck.
What I do know is I’ll be reading more Vonnegut in the future.