Yesterday I finished a book I’ve been reading for about a week now, racing through, really, because it’s been pretty interesting. The book is called And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life by Charles J. Shields.
The book, although well-written, made me feel pensive and sad. Kurt Vonnegut has been one of my favorite authors for a long time . My sixth grade teacher had Slaughterhouse 5 on the bookshelf in his classroom and I read it, as I remember, in one sitting. My dad owned Slapstick and I read it several times too. I even gave a presentation about Vonnegut in senior English during high school.
Shields does a good job of articulating in his biography why many Vonnegut fans, including me, liked him: he is simple without being simplistic, he embraces ambiguity but also has firm opinions and isn’t afraid of taking a stand, he’s compassionate, sentimental, creative, science fictitious, humorous, thoroughly American and a champion of common decency.
Unfortunately, Shields also explains in the book how Vonnegut very rarely exhibited those traits in his own personal life; quite the opposite, often. In fact, the books almost seem to contain all the advice that Vonnegut the man so desperately needed to follow in his own life. It’s always sad to find out that the people you admire aren’t all that you imagine them to be. In a way, I still value the books, though, and recommend them highly.
So it goes…