poor-old-kilgore

As cheesy as it sounds, I really love my Twitter handle. In the past year or so that I’ve been on Twitter I’ve been asked so many times, “What does ‘pooroldkilgore’ mean?”

I love it because it gives me a chance to gush about my favorite author. I don’t remember exactly when I started using the name online for various website log-ins, but it’s been a while. I thought of it because I really love Kurt Vonnegut and the character “Kilgore Trout” is a recurring character throughout his work. I wanted to come up with something that didn’t need numbers in it, so I thought of my love of Vonnegut and I thought Kilgore was a tragic character so I was thought of “poor” and he was described as in his 60’s in my favorite book so I thought of “old”.  In some ways, Kilgore was an over-the-top characterization of how Vonnegut saw himself. Descriptions of Trout vary throughout Vonnegut’s books, but what all of them have in common is that Kilgore is an underappreciated science fiction writer. As I’ve read Vonnegut books over the years, I’ve often noticed that I get very excited when he has popped up in different ways. I’m not a Vonnegut expert and there are still some books I need to read, but I have also lost track of how many times I’ve read “Slaughterhouse Five”. In that, Kilgore Trout’s stories are found in pornographic magazines and the main character Billy Pilgrim becomes a fan of his work and also befriends the author.

One of the many reasons I absolutely love Kurt Vonnegut is because his books made me passionate about reading in general. When I first picked up “Slaughterhouse Five” in high school I finished it in two days. For some people it’s not a big deal, there’s a good amount of people that read at a fast pace all the time. But for me it was an amazing feat. I did like reading before that, but I always got discouraged because I was a bit slower than kids around me due to struggling with dyslexia. For years I got awful grades thanks in part to my terrible spelling and getting anxious during tests. Sometimes seeing classmates read and do their work faster than me was a blow to my self-confidence and I would call myself stupid. So even though I liked reading, I would put off attempting to start a book because I would tell myself I was too dumb to get through it anyway. I think people really underestimate how much low self-confidence can hold people back. But one day I mustered up the courage to pick up a book I had heard from a few different sources was good. Something about the way Vonnegut wrote instantly spoke to me; I was effortlessly reading through pages and recognized a kindred spirit in his words. I still can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about Vonnegut’s attitude that I related to right away. The passion his writing brought up in me made me realize I wasn’t dumb, just a little different. I still struggle once in a while with dyslexia but it’s gotten much better. Reading more definitely helped me a lot and I really thank Vonnegut for that.

I think his work has also been partly responsible for my interest in humanism and atheism. “Slaughterhouse Five” isn’t an explicitly atheist book, but while reading it I remember my lack of belief growing a bit stronger. I would explain why in detail but I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read the book. If you read it, you may not have as much of a life changing experience as I did but I still highly recommend it. I still put myself down here and there (as we all do), but at least from I’ve learned to remind myself to stop being my own worst critic and that it’s okay to be a bit different. I also realized it’s usually the “different” people that are the most funny and interesting, like Mr. Vonnegut.

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11 thoughts on “poor-old-kilgore

      • Well, happy to oblige!

        I’ve read through what you’ve posted so far, and I think the main thing that animates your blog, if I’m understanding it right, is summed up in the quote from Douglas Adams you started off with: religious ideas need to be questioned or scrutinized just as much as any other idea that has the potential to shape society because some religious ideas have caused harm, and religious ideas like any other ideas have the potential to cause harm. Fair enough.

        Beyond scrutinizing religious ideas, are there other thoughts you’d like to share here? Reading has always been such a huge part of my life, it’s hard for me to imagine what it would have been like to be dyslexic and feel like I just wasn’t going to be good reader. I have a lot of empathy for how that must have felt, and I’m so glad you were able to overcome that. I like the way Vonnegut tells his stories – he recounts the just crazy things that are happening in such a matter-of-fact way. I can imagine that really resonating with you. I didn’t discover Vonnegut till college (Breakfast of Champions was the first I read by him) but he was such a great find.

        As a nerd, are you much of an SF fan? Have you ever read Fritz Lieber’s The Big Time? Classic SF, and I just thought of it recently because the female protagonist in that book who loves puns reads the Nazi belt buckle that has been a topic of conversation on this blog as “Got mittens?” Beliefs can keep us warm, you see.

        Anyway, I’m with Dawkins on the topic of whether it’s acceptable to be satisfied with not understanding the world. To the degree that anyone uses religion to teach that, I’m against them on that. I hope you post more. I wish you well with your scrutiny of religion, though I may dissent if I think you’re unfairly characterizing something, which I hope you won’t mind. I really hope you talk more about the intersection of your life experience with your beliefs and particularly with your nerd side.

  1. I initially followed you on twitter solely because of your handle. Vonnegut meant a similar thing to me. I read Cat’s Cradle in only a couple of days as well, but I was 22 at the time. It was the first time in my whole life that I didn’t feel like I was suffering through a book. Nothing else was like it. It felt like Vonnegut and I were in the same “Karass”. I’m 34 now, and I still consider reading this book to be one of the most impactful experiences of my life.

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