Kilgore Trout

theodore sturgeon

Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by author Kurt Vonnegut. He was originally created as a fictionalized version of author Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut’s colleague in the genre of science fiction), although Trout’s consistent presence in Vonnegut’s works has also led critics to view him as the author’s own alter ego.

Trout, who has supposedly written over 117 novels and over 2000 short stories, is usually described as an unappreciated science fiction writer whose works are used only as filler material in pornographic magazines. However, he does have at least three fans: Eliot Rosewater and Billy Pilgrim—both Vonnegut characters—have a near-complete collection of Trout’s work or have read most of his work.

Trout appears in several of Vonnegut’s books, in which he performs a variety of roles: he acts as a catalyst for the main characters in ‘Breakfast of Champions,’ ‘God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater’ and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ while in others, such as ‘Jailbird,’ and ‘Timequake,’ Trout is an active character who is vital to the story. Trout is also described differently in several books; in ‘Breakfast of Champions,’ he has, by the end, become something of a father figure, while in other novels, he seems to be something like Vonnegut in the early part of his career.

In early novels, Kilgore Trout lives in Ilium, New York, a fictional town based on Troy, New York (Vonnegut lived and worked in nearby Schenectady for some time). In later novels, Trout inhabits a basement apartment in Cohoes, an ailing mill community. While living in Cohoes, Trout works as an installer of aluminum combination storm windows and screens.

Vonnegut revised Trout’s biography on several occasions. In ‘Breakfast of Champions,’ he is born in 1907 and dies in 1981. In ‘Timequake,’ he lives from 1917 to 2001. Both death dates are set in the future as of the time the novels were written. More recently, in an article for In These Times Vonnegut reports that Kilgore Trout commits suicide by drinking Drāno. Trout “dies” at midnight on October 15, 2004 in Cohoes following his consultation with a psychic, who informs him that George W. Bush would once again win the U. S. Presidential election by a vote of 5-to-4 in the Supreme Court. The epitaph on his tombstone reads, ‘Life is no way to treat an animal.’

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