And So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut; A Life
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut; A Life. Holt. Nov. 2011. c.528p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780805086935. $30. LIT
Shields (Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee) presents a semiauthorized biography: Vonnegut agreed to cooperate but then died within a year, four years before this publication. However, the book demonstrates thorough research, based on interviews, letters, emails, and critical evaluations of Vonnegut's writings, all cited extensively. While many are familiar with some of Vonnegut's novels, fewer know his personal history. Shields takes us from cradle to grave, an interesting journey to say the least, stressing that his role is to look for patterns of behavior. One pattern he frequently notes is the difference between Vonnegut's authorial voice and ideas and the person himself. While Shields is clearly a fan, he does not shy away from discussing the more difficult aspects of Vonnegut's personality or from criticizing the novels. His device of starting the biography right in the midst of things, only to return to the early years, seems a bit forced, but, that aside, he keeps readers engrossed in the unfolding.
VERDICT An excellent choice particularly for those who have read Vonnegut and will now understand the sources of the ideas he espouses in his novels and be able to contrast them with the actual person. [See Prepub Alert, 5/9/11.]
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