God Bless You, Mr Vonnegut…

11/10/2002

One of my favourite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. One of his favourite authors is Kilgore Trout. Kilgore Trout is what Kurt Vonnegut would be if life was a ludicrous joke and reality was one of Kurt Vonnegut books. Kilgore Trout writes stories. Mostly they’re quite short. And thanks to a link from a nice chap on Metafilter you can now read all of Kilgore Trout’s stories without the laborious time expenditure of reading Kurt Vonnegut’s short, devastating and brilliant novels. My favourite goes like this:

   In 2BR0TB [Kilgore Trout] hypothecated an America in which almost all of the work was done by machines, and the only people who could get work had three or more Ph.D’s. There was a serious overpopulation problem, too.

   All serious diseases had been conquered. So death was voluntary, and the government, to encourage volunteers for death, set up a purple-roofed Ethical Suicide Parlor at every major intersection, right next door to an orange-roofed Howard Johnson’s. There were pretty hostesses in the parlor, and Barca-Loungers, and Muzak, and a choice of fourteen painless ways to die. The suicide parlors were busy places, because so many people felt silly and pointless, and because it was supposed to be an unselfish, patriotic thing to do, to die. The suicides also got free last meals next door.

   And so on. Trout had a wonderful imagination.

   One of the characters asked a death stewardess if he would go to Heaven, and she told him that of course he would. He asked if he would see God, and she said, “Certainly, honey.”

   And he said, “I sure hope so. I want to ask Him something I never was able to find out down here.”

   ”What’s that?” she said, strapping him in.

   ”What the hell are people for?”