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And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life

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And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life Cover

ISBN13: 9780805086935
ISBN10: 0805086935
Condition:
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Vonnegut initially refused to grant an interview to Shields (author of the bestselling Mockingbird), but then relented, enabling Shields to meet him during the last months of his life. This first authorized biography probes both Vonnegut's creative struggles and family life, detailing his transition from 'the bowery of the book world' to counterculture icon. Shields delivers a vivid recreation of Vonnegut's ghastly WWII experiences as a POW during the Dresden firebombing that became the basis for Slaughterhouse-Five; the novel brought him overnight fame when it was serialized in Ramparts magazine and then published in a month when 453 Americans were killed in Vietnam. Tragedies and triumphs are contrasted throughout, along with an adroit literary analysis that highlights obscure or overlooked influences on Vonnegut: Ambrose Bierce, Céline, Robert Coover's metafiction, and Paul Rhymer, who scripted radio's Vic and Sade. With access to more than 1,500 letters, Shields conducted hundreds of interviews to produce this engrossing, definitive biography. It arrives during a year of renewed interest in Vonnegut, such as this year's Library of America's Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963 — 1973, and Gregory D. Sumner's Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels, also due in Nov. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

From the author of Mockingbird—the first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a writer who forever altered 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 unprecedented access to Vonnegut and his letters.

While millions know Vonnegut as a counterculture guru, antiwar activist, and satirist of American culture, few outside his closest friends and family knew the full arc of his extraordinary life. And So It Goes changes that, painting the portrait of a man who made friends easily but always felt lonely, sold millions of books but never felt appreciated, and described himself as a humanist but fought with humanity at large. As a former public relations man, Vonnegut crafted his image carefully—the avuncular, curly-haired humorist—though he admitted, "I myself am a work of fiction."

The extremely wide and overwhelmingly positive review coverage for And So It Goes has been nothing less than extraordinary and confirm it as the definitive biography of Kurt Vonnegut.

About the Author

CHARLES J. SHIELDS is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, and I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). He grew up in the Midwest and taught in a rural school in central Illinois for several years. He has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of nonfiction books for young people. He and his wife live near Charlottesville, Virginia.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Kathleen Long, March 4, 2012 (view all comments by Kathleen Long)
I wish I had read reviews before I read Shields' biography of one of my favorite authors. I do, as the previous reviewer warned, like Vonnegut less after reading. Call me a romantic, but there is an undertow of negativity throughout the book--perhaps Shields is angry with Vonnegut for dying before he could really get to know the man personally. Or maybe he is jealous of Vonnegut's success as a writer. The tone Shields creates through decidedly extensive research, is one of a whining, lackluster talent who manuevers and manipulates his persona and his writing to fit the current market. I find the book harsh. It literally leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I have no problem with one of my literary heroes having a dark side--you cannot read Vonnegut without experiencing his depression--or having feet of clay, but there is an unsettling meanstreak throughout this biography. I suggest you skip it, if you are as fond of Vonnegut as I.
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Shari Lynn, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Shari Lynn)
Chronicles of a fascinating life and Vonnegut's journey to becoming a successful writer. I'm going to reread his books with new insight.
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Burton, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Burton)
This is a book for Vonnegut fans. It details his life in terms of his psychological constructs, his proclivity toward slap stick humor, and, his angst in his need to be recognized and lack of accomplishments (until Slaughterhouse Five).

There were many revelations as to Vonnegut's failings. Much attention (neither salacious nor sanitized) is spent on his character flaws, of which there were many. He didn't love his children enough, he wasn't faithful to either of his wives or to the people who supported his literary career. Through it all, he chain-smokes Pall Malls for 60 years and, in the end, does not die of respiratory disease or cancer.

The book does a remarkable job given that the Shields was limited to the content of some 250 letters and interviews with Vonnegut's friends and acquaintances rather than one-on-one conversations with his subject, who died less than a month after the personal interviews began. The book's weakness is that there are so many details that one tends to get lost. It would be convenient if there were a time line that we could refer to, now and then, to help keep things in order.

One completes the biography, perhaps liking Vonnegut less, while understanding him a great deal more.



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Product Details

ISBN:
9780805086935
Author:
Shields, Charles J
Publisher:
Henry Holt & Company
Author:
Shields, Charles J.
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20111131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
2 8-pg. inserts; tk bandw illustrations
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life Sale Hardcover
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Product details 544 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805086935 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Vonnegut initially refused to grant an interview to Shields (author of the bestselling Mockingbird), but then relented, enabling Shields to meet him during the last months of his life. This first authorized biography probes both Vonnegut's creative struggles and family life, detailing his transition from 'the bowery of the book world' to counterculture icon. Shields delivers a vivid recreation of Vonnegut's ghastly WWII experiences as a POW during the Dresden firebombing that became the basis for Slaughterhouse-Five; the novel brought him overnight fame when it was serialized in Ramparts magazine and then published in a month when 453 Americans were killed in Vietnam. Tragedies and triumphs are contrasted throughout, along with an adroit literary analysis that highlights obscure or overlooked influences on Vonnegut: Ambrose Bierce, Céline, Robert Coover's metafiction, and Paul Rhymer, who scripted radio's Vic and Sade. With access to more than 1,500 letters, Shields conducted hundreds of interviews to produce this engrossing, definitive biography. It arrives during a year of renewed interest in Vonnegut, such as this year's Library of America's Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963 — 1973, and Gregory D. Sumner's Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels, also due in Nov. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,

From the author of Mockingbird—the first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a writer who forever altered 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 unprecedented access to Vonnegut and his letters.

While millions know Vonnegut as a counterculture guru, antiwar activist, and satirist of American culture, few outside his closest friends and family knew the full arc of his extraordinary life. And So It Goes changes that, painting the portrait of a man who made friends easily but always felt lonely, sold millions of books but never felt appreciated, and described himself as a humanist but fought with humanity at large. As a former public relations man, Vonnegut crafted his image carefully—the avuncular, curly-haired humorist—though he admitted, "I myself am a work of fiction."

The extremely wide and overwhelmingly positive review coverage for And So It Goes has been nothing less than extraordinary and confirm it as the definitive biography of Kurt Vonnegut.

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