What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Breakfast of Champions
by Kurt Vonnegut and
The Razor’s Edge
by W. Somerset Maugham

Field-Tested by Tom Keiser

in Audubon, New Jersey

If I have to talk about one book that changed me, I need to talk about two. It was the December after 9/11, and I was in my senior year of high school. For our AP English class, we had to choose a novel to recommend to our class, and the one with the most votes would be our next assignment. I had never read ‘for fun,’ and most of my friends thought the Left Behind books were the pinnacle of literature. At a loss for what to read, I saw a documentary on Steve Martin where he said that the main character’s search for knowledge in The Razor’s Edge had fascinated him. Good enough for me.

I actually read most of the book, although to save time I skipped the part the author said outright had nothing to do with the plot. When I told the class The Razor’s Edge would change their lives, I realized that I should have at least skimmed that chapter.

Luckily, a friend of mine had a better influence in his cousin, one of the coolest Dungeon Masters I would ever know. Up to that point, I thought the term “Science Fiction” was a bit too close to “Scientology,” so I avoided anything vaguely resembling either. However, Breakfast of Champions took place in a fantasy world more fascinating and more similar to my world than anything I read before.

Both books made me realize just how amazing reading could be. I saw some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen while reading Razor’s, similar to the mindless beauty of the tragic heroine. Meanwhile, I read the first half of Breakfast while waiting to perform as a mascot during a basketball tournament. I almost threw up in my hideous Gumby-esque costume that day, but discovering a universe of converging dichotomies more than made up for it.

But what really makes me remember these two disparate books is how each book instilled in me a sense of place. There really was a world where people like Larry Darrell could find the truth. And there actually was a Walt Whitman Bridge, which was visible from my town’s decrepit shopping center and where Kilgore Trout passed on his way to being set free, if only for a little while.

Tom Keiser an aspiring writer and a soon-to-be graduate from Rutgers University-Camden. He still wonders what contributed more to the Audubon Green Wave’s 5-5 record in 2001: his mascot work or the rocket arm of future NFL quarterback Joe Flacco. He hasn’t written in his blog in months, but plans to in the future.

Buy Breakfast of Champions and The Razor's Edge