Sunday, July 13, 2008
The Window Into the American Mind
A unexpected find from In These Times from earlier this year -- an account of a Vonnegut fan club in China:
Guizhou University sits on the outskirts of Guiyang City, the sleepy capital of China’s poorest province. Undergraduate tuition is the equivalent of $250 per term, books and housing included. A meal of pulled noodles, hot pot or sweet and sour pork runs about $1, while the soup-and-rice special in the dining hall costs a dime. The two most popular courses at the school are Mao Tse Dung Economic Thought and an early morning Kung Fu class that meets on the soccer field.
Life at Gui Da, as the school is locally known, is economically, socially, culturally and politically removed from life in America. Despite this, the school is home to an informal — and unlikely — group: a Kurt Vonnegut Fan Club.
“We don’t understand all of what Vonnegut wrote,” the club’s president, Isabel Yuan, told me, “But we think reading him helps us understand America.” Isabel and I spoke over a steaming pot of bitter pu’ er tea in a restaurant not far from the Gui Da campus. She sat upright, her black eyes focused on the porcelain cup in her hand. “Vonnegut,” she continued, “is our window into the American mind.”...