‘Mr. Breakfast’ by Jonathan Carroll – A Back to the Future Vibe


‘Mr. Breakfast’ by Jonathan Carroll   (2023) – 261 pages


In this novel, the plot hinges on the special magical powers of a tattoo design. Very early on, I realized that I should not let my aversion to tattoos interfere with my appreciation of this novel.

However tattoos are not natural; they are contrived. I will never figure out why some people, many people, allow these ugly blotches to be put on to their skin.

At the same time, if I had to choose one word to describe the novel ‘Mr Breakfast’, that word would be “contrived”.

At the beginning of the novel, Graham Patterson is a comedian, somewhat of a failed comedian. We never get to hear his act, but we find out that he can be funny at times but perhaps not funny enough to pursue a career as a comedian. His long-time girlfriend Ruth Murphy has broken up with him because he doesn’t want children. Graham decides to drive to California alone to figure out what he is going to do next. Along the way he picks up a camera and decides he might become a photographer.

Somehow he winds up in this tattoo shop and gets this special tattoo. The woman at the tattoo parlor explains how the tattoo will give him the ability to try out three different life choices. One is the life he is living now, another is the life if he were a successful comedian, and the third is if he had married Ruth Murphy.

When you’re ready, you’ll choose one of your three and live it until you die. The moment you do decide which you prefer, you’ll forget you ever had a choice, and the tattoo will disappear.”

Somehow these three versions of his life all get mixed together like a tossed salad, and Graham experiences both his past and his future at the same time. At one point Graham sees a Teratornis bird, a bird that went extinct with the dinosaurs. What we wind up with is a mish-mash version of his life.

We all live in the past sometimes; our memories become our present.”

As a writer, the author Jonathan Carroll is known as a fantasist. A fantasist does not, by definition, have to be realistic. ‘Mr. Breakfast’ takes full advantage of this and is often absurd and ridiculous. That would be OK with me, but the novel is often absurd and ridiculous in a stereotypical and boring way.

The evidence in the novel that Graham did even the basic training to become a famous photographer is minimal at best. But it’s all a fantasy I guess, so who cares about evidence?


Grade:    C




4 responses to this post.

  1. I’m with you on the subject of tattoos. It’s a free country and people can do what they like and everyone has different ideas about attractiveness, but still, it makes me feel sad to see lovely young skin defaced by them.



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