I am Kilgore Trout

You know what this is.

Or at least I wish I was. Over the past year, I’ve been drawing a series of parallels between myself and Vonnegut’s fictional alter ego (Or Theodore Sturgeon’s.) In so many ways I respect this man. Embittered, and three times divorced, when we’re introduced to Kilgore Trout in Slaughterhouse Five, his works serve as filler for girlie magazines. By 1974, he has written one hundred seventeen novels and two thousand short stories. Many of which use thinly veiled science fiction worlds for the sake of social and political commentary. Of Trout’s works, Vonnegut says the ideas and plots driving these pieces are fantastic (The premises of which significantly alter the lives of his very meager readership) but the prose isn’t worth a damn.  He’s cynical and aging, lives in a shitty apartment where his only belongings amount to an obnoxious parakeet and a prom tuxedo. Again, there’s something romantic in all this.

The thing is, this summer I’ve been plugging away on a laptop several hours a day. I’m not saying any of the material I’ve produced is worth a damn, but somehow after working for four months I woke up with 200 + pages of semi-finished material, a stack that my thesis adviser is still sifting through (God bless his soul.) I respect Trout because his focus is with creation. He produces work on his own terms with no expectation of fame or of being adopted into a broader literary community.

  Then there are the conceits of his works. We are never actually given his works verbatim, but rather Vonnegut’s interpretation of the material.  A Plague on Wheels, a story that is revealed shortly after Trout gives his Nobel Prize speech, is about  life on a dying planet named Lingo-Three, where the people are actually automobiles with wheels. Visiting space travelers (homosexual, inch-high people from the planet Zeltoldimar) discover that the automobile-people have destroyed the resources on Lingo-Three. The space travelers cannot save the automobile-people, since their eggs are too heavy to bring back to Zeltoldimar; their spokesman, Kago, says, “You will be gone, but not forgotten.” The space travelers leave Lingo-Three and later arrive on Earth. They tell the Earthlings about the automobiles that are dying out on Lingo-Three, and unknowingly bring about the destruction of the Earthlings because, “human beings could be as easily felled by a single idea as by cholera or the bubonic plague.” Using this idea, the earthlings create beings like those on Lingo-Three that pollute and ravage the resources of the world.

Trout’s novel, Now it Can be Told , which causes the final break in Dwayne Hoover’s psyche in “Breakfast of Champions” is about the only conscious being in the universe who is surrounded by programed robots to test his free will.

These are the moments in which I feel most like Kilgore Trout. When my Mom calls me up to ask what the story I’m working on is about. When I give a summary of a work of mine to friends at the bar, who respond with wide, blinking eyes and half smiles. Here are the concepts of some of my last stories, and the reason why when people ask me what I’m working on I’ll just simply say it’s a story about a love triangle:

Waltzing the Apocalypse- The owner of a sex shop buries a used condom in the Indian burial ground behind his store.

The Unanswerables- A widowed man’s son discovers a see-and-say toy that opens a doorway to the other side.

Tale for a Lonely Universe-  A group of children watch a BBC sign language program and form a story circle at the end of the world.

Marionettes- A love story that takes place between a woman who has just murdered her husband and a self-aware GPS device.

The Places We Keep Our Dead- A father buries a radio transmitter in his recently buried daughter’s coffin. Vampires are involved, along with God as a failed thespian who is growing really damn bored with us.

Tamagawa Canal- Purgatory for those who have killed themselves as a take-out Chinese restaurant that delivers oblivion.

Those are just a couple examples of the love-triangle’s I’ve been writing these past couple years. I think there’s a Kilgore Trout in every one us. What are some Trout-like stories/works you’ve been writing recently?

 

 

 

 


9 Comments

  • Tim Greenup says:

    I’ll love any story where a GPS device becomes self-aware.

  • Teddy Wiswold says:

    How about a story where kids ride their skateboards to the mall, but when they get there the mall is closed, so instead they go to an old-folks home and read to the old people, but one of the skateboarding kids doesn’t know how to read, so his friends pick on him a little bit, and then one of the old folks tells the kid, “It’s OK, I never learned to read either,” and the other kids accept the kid who can’t read, and then everyone rides their skateboards back to the mall, even the old people, and they buy some assorted lotions and drink slushies together.

  • Leyna Krow says:

    I intend to name my first-born child Kilgore.

  • Ben Horton says:

    The only thing I know for sure is that all of this is possible . If and when Kilgore pops into your head go with it. An idea for a story that I think I may never write is “Proffessor Quintini’s Almanac”
    It’s more of an oral tradition when told so it’s always changing a bit. Kurt needed to change dates and whereabouts for Trout. He’s not dead, from draino, it turns out. Kilgore first came to me with a shiny paperback novel just as Bluebeard came out hardcover. Now with PQA so it goes before the Trout event this Prof Qintini shows up and tells me to hold on to this Almanac and he and this Almanac I’m told came buy way of CSInfundibula and Quintini is prof of psudo-theoretical physics at The University of Tralfamador which at that point I quite trying to translate the almanac as that proves to be a mute point. This was before I found out that Hanna (a relation to me) married a Amos Figard of the nine Mary Jane Figard married Brink Trout they from Ohio so it goes they have nine children only one of those has a child Jane the last born has on son Hobart Seitz roughly the same age as kilgore . Then all these Figards and Trouts seem to just go away. I used to think this was all just a bunch of silly made up stuff. I did write one short story in a frenzy that was a shared experience that preceded a time quake which was Jan 17 late 1994 so all this talk about earthquakes and time travel Kilgore seemed to think was going to be it for Kurt and the only short I was able to type was the” Elucidation of a coincidence” A way to make wishes come true.or so it goes .

    • Beny Gardener says:

      You need a gardener for these weeds you cal words.
      As I can pull together Kilgore had something to do with what you thought was a shiny spine on the paperback version of Galapagos. You have friends who praise Vonnegut ,
      But have never read any of his work.The closest you came was not reading Slaughter House Five when it was assigned to you in class way back when. I seem to remember you tried watching the movie adaptation, but The tape you rented had inaudible sound , Trout’s doing I bet. So here you are years later pulling a book with a shiny spine off the shelf for just because it is shiny. Your in the bookstore looking for new age, mysticism bullshit because you think it might help with all these weird thoughts your having about time travelers with almanacs. Now here’s the thing, your looking at Galapagos with the nice shiny cover and think that this slaughter House guy with his Galapagos tortoises can go right back on the shelf were it came. Now you can plainly see that the spine is NOT shiny. Only the cover is shiny. So you pull the thing back off the shelf and you here a voice say “how do you like me know? Or so it goes.

  • Kmac says:

    Mmm, this bark post changed my life.

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