Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Lecture Date: 4-8-1992
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Interview: Introductions for author and satirist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. are made by John Eadie and Nancy Pogel who summarizes Vonnegut's varied career. Vonnegut opens the lecture on his beginnings as an author, and transitions to address the structure of society, stating that in order to lead a "good life" one must accrue a good support system, what he terms an "extended family." Vonnegut moves on to discuss the "American mindset," particularly in relation to politics and the apparent primacy of television over reading. He argues that American culture has become so accustomed to brutality that it is celebrated. Vonnegut delivers a graduation address which he gave earlier at the University of Rhode Island. The speech covers past and present day politics. Vonnegut speaks frankly about his pessimism concerning America today. He expresses some hope that we are beginning to find cures to some of the social "diseases" which afflict our country. However, the author does not see liberty in the future of anyone alive today. Vonnegut's advice is to behave like saints despite the difficult times in which we live. He discusses the declining school system, including literacy and books in general and expresses nostalgia for the public education of the past. The author likens reading to a meditation, saying that it takes us into an alternate relaxed state. He pleads to the audience that they help keep this art form alive despite the convenience of technology. The discussion of technology leads to a simplified explanation of story structure. Vonnegut explains that the greatest books, such as Hamlet, are ambiguous, because life is ambiguous. When questioned by the audience, Vonnegut begins to answer both personal and professional questions where he discusses his family, his works, and his fellow authors.
Biography: Author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 11, 1922. Vonneguts literature is well-known for its satirical approach to twentieth century concerns in regards to new technology and the impact of modern war. The satirist has authored eighteen highly acclaimed novels as well as numerous essays, short stories, and plays. Well-known works include Cats Cradle (1963), The Sirens of Titan (1959)¸ and Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).