In this week’s episode we say goodbye to Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.
The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 58: Rest well Kilgore Trout
by Steven C. Day
“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
Kurt Vonnegut (But then who else would it be?)
I received the news of Vonnegut’s passing — and I say this as an act of confession — with one part sadness and one part envy. The envy wasn’t for the dying, of course: Why be jealous for a jewel you’re certain to receive yourself one day soon? No, the jealously was for his life — or maybe for the immortality that life engendered.
When you’ve just turned 52 — happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me — the idea of immortality of any sort takes on a significance notably lacking when you turn, say, 25.
There have been many times in my life when I’ve wanted to be Kurt Vonnegut, or more accurately, part of Kurt Vonnegut. I didn’t want the part where his mother committed suicide, of course, or where his beloved sister died young or even the part where he lived through being a prisoner of war and the firebombing of Dresden.
No, it was the successful writer part of Kurt Vonnegut I wanted to be.
Like at least 50 percent of all of the men, women and children who have ever roamed this increasingly warm planet, part of me has always wanted to be a writer. And not just any sort of writer — a writer of great fiction. And I will admit to a certain sense of awe for those who have managed to do it both successfully and well.
Kilgore Trout was, of course, not one of those people. His work was depressingly unpopular. In fact, the only place he was routinely published was in pornography, where his work was used to provide some “redeeming social importance,” in the hope of avoiding prosecution under obscenity laws. Vonnegut considered Trout’s lack of popularity unsurprising: ”His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.”
Yet, in the end, when, in Breakfast of Champions, Trout had the opportunity to confront his creator, he didn’t ask to be given better writing skills. He had something else in mind.
Here was what Kilgore Trout cried out to me in my father’s voice: “Make me young, make me young, make me young!”
(Kurt Vonnegut — Last line of the book Breakfast of Champions (1973))