And So It Goes

And So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut, A Life

Book - 2011
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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011

The first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a writer who changed the conversation of American literature.

In 2006, Charles Shields reached out to Kurt Vonnegut in a letter, asking for his endorsement for a planned biography. The first response was no ("A most respectful demurring by me for the excellent writer Charles J. Shields, who offered to be my biographer"). Unwilling to take no for an answer, propelled by a passion for his subject, and already deep into his research, Shields wrote again and this time, to his delight, the answer came back: "O.K." For the next year--a year that ended up being Vonnegut's last--Shields had access to Vonnegut and his letters.

And So It Goes is the culmination of five years of research and writing--the first-ever biography of the life of Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut resonates with readers of all generations from the baby boomers who grew up with him to high-school and college students who are discovering his work for the first time. Vonnegut's concise collection of personal essays, Man Without a Country , published in 2006, spent fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. The twenty-first century has seen interest in and scholarship about Vonnegut's works grow even stronger, and this is the first book to examine in full the life of one of the most influential iconoclasts of his time.

Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780805086935
Characteristics: xii, 513 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.

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derekwolfgram
Jul 08, 2012

And So It Goes is a meticulously researched, comprehensive biography of my favorite author. Without the hero worship of many biographies, Charles Shields balances the many contradictions in Vonnegut's life. While Shields tends to give Vonnegut a pass on most of his literary missteps, chalking them up to critics' failure to understand his technique or motivation, he does not paint nearly as positive a picture of Kurt's personal life. His self centered-ness in personal relationships with his wives, daughters, and lovers, as well as business relationships with agents and publishers, are portrayed as shockingly callous for a man who preached the gospel of kindness. Despite over 50 pages of endnotes, there are still factual errors - Shields refers to Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver (now Colorado Governor) as the son of one of Vonnegut's fellow Dresden POWs, when in fact Hickenlooper's father was a fraternity brother of Vonnegut at Cornell. While this detail is minor, it makes me wonder how many other unsupported statements are included. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this trip though Vonnegut's life and am certainly inspired to go back and re-read several of Vonnegut's classic novels with the historical context of his life in mind.

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