So it went. Leaning his hulking frame over an Irvine Auditorium podium, author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. issued a flood of blunt observations and advice to the hundreds of excited students who jammed into the hall last night. In a quiet, straightforward speech, Vonnegut, whose most famous works include Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, drew laughter and applause as he systematically criticized American society, lauded its accomplishments and gave his "best" advice to aspiring authors. He repeatedly pointed out that Americans have a need to feel like members of a family. He blamed the the Japanese influence on U.S. industry for obstructing that feeling, saying that while it may be good business, it is "terribly demoralizing" to Americans. "Benedict Arnold is notorious as a scumbag," he said. "How is he any worse than those who are selling this country to foreigners?" Vonnegut also attacked the nation's education system, suggesting that Americans stop "treating teachers like dirt" since teaching is "the most important profession in a democracy." English Professor Robert Lucid, who introduced Vonnegut, clapped his hands softly as he sat on stage behind the author. "We are now the dumbest country in the world," Vonnegut said. "People are starting to panic, as dumb as we are." He blasted television for a general lack of content, but reserved praise for L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues, which he called "wonderful." The author of Breakfast of Champions, Deadeye Dick and Player Piano said he would rather have written for the show Cheers than write anything he has published. In an unusually optimistic moment, Vonnegut said that Americans today are more tolerant of other races than any other people in the world. The last part of Vonnegut's speech was directed at aspiring writers in the audience. He told students that if they are having trouble writing a story, they should throw away their first three pages and add Iago, the villianous character in Shakespere's Othello. Jonathan Swartz and Neil Kreuzer praised Vonnegut for his dry humor and his "fantastic" speaking ability. "He writes just like he speaks," said Kreuzer, a College and Wharton junior. "It's nice to see someone who's not afraid to tell it like it is," said Swartz, a College junior.Comments powered by Disqus
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