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And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by…

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life (edition 2011)

by Charles J. Shields

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3053657,290 (3.96)13
An authorized portrait of the influential twentieth-century American writer draws on first-person accounts and Vonnegut's private letters while offering insight into his youth, the inspirations for his work, and his enduring literary impact.
Title:And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life
Authors:Charles J. Shields
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (2011), Edition: Advance Reader's Edition, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:biography, writer

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And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields



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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Really a sad story in the end. America's most prominent humanist, finding himself all too human, becomes a fictional character in his own right. This book will make your obligatory college-age Vonnegut obsession grow up as much as you have. Personally, I didn't find that having the veil pulled back on the real Vonnegut diminished my feelings about his books at all. If anything, seeing his writing in the contradictory context of his life only deepened the genuine sadness and striving that pervades them. It also reminded me that I still need to read "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." Highly recommended. ( )
  macfarlandian | Sep 16, 2019 |
3.5 stars.

I'm not much of a reader of nonfiction, and I don't know when I last read a biography... but And So It Goes held my interest, probably because Shields maintains a decent balance of world history, Vonnegut family distress, and information about Vonnegut's books. I think the book might be particularly useful for readers (like me) who wonder why they lost interest in Vonnegut. ( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |
Ready for a shock?, There's a discrepancy between the representation of himself that Kurt Vonnegut created in his fiction, and who he really is.
Informative, well researched, but oddly judgmental biography on the the life of Kurt Vonnegut.
Often fascinating, at times a revelation, but not useful with regard to any critical evaluation of Vonnegut's fiction -something the author occasionally, and glibly engages in.
Not complete on an encyclopedic level either - that text yet to be written. ( )
  arthurfrayn | Oct 11, 2015 |
Back in the 60s, everyone read Kurt Vonnegut – for his humor, his satire, his snarky comments, and his off-beat and quirky style. I tried Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse 5. I rated both “Meh!” Recently I came across some of his later works, and I went back and re-read the two early novels. While I didn’t really enjoy, the novels, I was curious about them. Then, along comes a new biography of Vonnegut, And So It Goes, by Charles J. Shields. Now I have a much better understanding of Vonnegut and a greater appreciation for his work.

Shields authored Mockingbird, a best-selling biography of Harper Lee. A former teacher, Shields has served as a reporter for NPR, a journalist, and the author of several non-fiction books for children. His biography of Vonnegut, is detailed, well-documented, and illustrated with several photos of important people and moments in the life of the quirky author.

Kurt Vonnegut had a difficult life. He constantly found himself in the shadow of his older brother, Bernard, who informed the young Kurt he was “an accident.” He also had a difficult relationship with his father. Added to that was a rocky marriage complicated by the arrival several nieces and nephews orphaned by a train wreck (their father) and the death of Alice (their mother) of cancer a few days later.

At a party, Kurt sat down to play the piano. Two women joined him, and the bench collapsed. Shield’s writes, “Beneath the hilarity, though, several women got the impression that [Kurt’s wife] Jane, pregnant, already had two children on her hands: three-year-old Mark and her husband. ‘Being Mrs. Vonnegut,” said one of her friends, ‘was not a nine-to-five-job because he was not inclined to do things for himself.’ When attention strayed from Kurt, she tried to direct it back to him. He didn’t deem like the typical father, either, at least to another dad at the party – rather distant, in fact. When Mark [Kurt’s son] rode his tricycle into the room, Kurt said quietly, ‘Mark, that’s gauche,’ and let it go at that. Nevertheless, Jane whisked around the party, floating on happiness. // Two months later, on December 29, their second child Edith was born.” (110).

Vonnegut also had a peculiar relationship with his wife. Kurt wanted to move to Cape Cod where he could befriend other writers, and have the peace and solitude he needed to write. Shields explains, “From now on, they would live for the arts. They would read the best and latest books, discuss them, make notes to each other in the margins, and give full rein to Kurt’s career in a location that couldn’t be more salubrious for creativity. They must do it – to be true to themselves. And for Kurt it was the vicarious realization of his mother’s dream to live and write on Cape Cod’ (118). Vonnegut also agonized over the suicide of his mother. This tragedy, together with his knotty relationships and his World War II experiences as a P.O.W. in Dresden during the horrific firebombing by British and American air forces shaped his personality and informed his style.

Kurt Vonnegut is an important figure in post-war fiction. Charles J. Shields’ biography, And So It Goes, Kurt Vonnegut: A Life sheds a brilliant light on this quirky writer. It also led me to a better understanding of his fiction. 5 stars.

--Jim, 6/2/15 ( )
  rmckeown | Jun 2, 2015 |
"What a biographer is looking for is patterns of behavior."
Charles J. Shields, "And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life"

That may be true, but it is the exceptions to those patterns, the inconsistencies, that make a life interesting.Charles J. Shields, whose "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" was such a fine literary biography, equals that with "And So It Goes," his 2011 portrait of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. And for all the clear patterns of behavior in Vonnegut's life, the inconsistencies prove just as important.

Shields makes much of the fact that Vonnegut, while the darling of the Left from the time he became a major literary figure in the 1960s, was in many ways a conservative at heart. Like a reactionary, says Shields, he longed for the good old days. He hated the way his world was changing. Vonnegut may have spoken out against Big Business, yet he invested heavily in the stock market and counted on Big Business to protect his fortune. Vonnegut wrote and spoke often about the importance of family and old-time values, yet his own family life was a mess. He preached the value of friendship and cooperation, yet he betrayed many of his own friends and the people he did business with.

Vonnegut was one of many novelists to come out of World War II, yet it took him decades to write the war novel that would make his reputation, "Slaughterhouse-Five." A prisoner of war, he had been in Dresden during the fire bombing that destroyed the city in 1944. He survived by being underground at the time, in Slaughterhouse-Five, yet being underground he wasn't actually a witness to the bombing, so he didn't know how to tell the story. Finally he found a way using science fiction, time travel and aliens from space to create one of the most unique novels of the 20th century.

He continued to write, but none of his subsequent books measured up to his masterpiece, although some of his earlier novels, virtually ignored when first published, later became admired. His shrinking reputation frustrated Vonnegut. He now had fame and fortune, yet with each new novel, critics took him less and less seriously. Many of his books were bestsellers, but he hated being thought a literary fraud.

Had Vonnegut been true to his values; been faithful to Jane, his first and best wife; been a better father and a better friend, he most likely would have had a happier life than he had. But his biography, if anyone even bothered to write one, would have been much less interesting. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Feb 23, 2015 |
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Never did a man,

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