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And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life Audible – Unabridged

4.3 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 17 hours and 35 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Audible.com Release Date: May 30, 2012
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0087EPS94
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dresden, Germany. The night of February 13, 1945. Remnants of the Army's 423rd Regiment, 106th Division, captured almost as soon as they began fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, are roused from their bunks in a POW camp by an airraid siren. They are hustled into a meat locker, 60 feet below ground. German prison guards enter the bunker with them, and shut the steel door behind them. Above ground, the night time firebombing of Dresden begins. In the one thousand degree heat, "super heated tornadoes had sucked out the oxygen and turned hiding places into tombs." The bombing continued into the night. At dawn the next day, the POW's emerged from the meat locker to see what had happened, Private Kurt Vonnegut among them. What he saw that day colored his entire career and formed the basis for his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse 5.

The new Charles J. Shields biography of Kurt Vonnegut, And So It Goes, doesn't adhere to the love-hate mentality that was in vogue between biographers and their subjects a generation ago. In the current book, biographer and author seemed genuinely to like each other in the brief period they worked together. One could go so far as to say that before Vonnegut's death, they were well on their way to becoming, well, pals. Ah, I thought to myself. This biographer will suck up in person, then skewer the old man after he dies. It never happens.

This is not to say Vonnegut gets a free pass. Infidelities and indiscretions are on full view, and never more so than in the Fall of 1965 when the author begins an affair at the famous University of Iowa creative writing workshop.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though I was one of the young folks enthralled by Slaughterhouse-Five, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, and much more of Vonnegut's work, I really didn't know much about the man, his family, and his life--except for his youthful Army service and horrifying experiences as a POW after the Allied firebombing of Dresden. Charles Shields, who wrote the first substantive biography of Harper Lee, corresponded with Vonnegut, proposing a biography. Once he had convinced his subject--rightly--of his top-notch research skills, Vonnegut finally sent Shields a last illustrated postcard, this time captioned, "OK." Work had not progressed very far before Vonnegut tripped over his Lhasa Apso's leash, fell, and never regained consciousness, dying three weeks later in 2007.

Perhaps what finally pushed Vonnegut to trust Shields was the fact that really had been no previous biography of this literary icon of the second half of the twentieth century, which rankled Vonnegut. If America had a one-man Grub Street, Vonnegut grubbed away there in West Barnstable on Cape Cod for some twenty years churning out dozens of short stories and a few novels, amid clouds of Pall Mall smoke, before Slaughterhouse-Five made him a bestselling author. It also conferred financial security where previously there had been none. In this freelance writer's life existed a neat division of labor: Kurt wrote, while his then-devoted first wife Jane did everything else, including taking in three young, orphaned nephews when his adored sister Alice died of cancer just a day after her husband perished in a railroad accident.

In the mid-1960s, Vonnegut eagerly accepted a last-minute offer to teach at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've waited a long time to write this review because I was pretty upset about several aspects of the book and wanted to calm down. It is an informative picture of many aspects of Vonnegut's life, but as other reviewers have pointed out, it dwells too much on deflating, sometimes inaccurately, the image of Vonnegut many admirers believed in, and it undervalues his literary achievement. Just to take one example of the image deflation, the author highlights Vonnegut's hypocrisy in owning Dow Chemical stock while presenting himself as anti-war during the Vietnam conflict, yet Donald Farber, self-described in an a New York Times Book Review letter to the editor as Vonnegut's "attorney, agent, manager and buddy for over 40 years" says that he managed Vonnegut's investments and is certain that Vonnegut never even paid attention to what specific stocks were in the portfolio. Sure, that can be thought of as a failing too, but it does not seem like the conscious hypocrisy it is portrayed as in this book. Shields' emphasis is usually on the negative, and when he does point out an act of generosity, it doesn't receive as much attention as the stories that tear down Vonnegut's popular image. As for the literary content of the book, Shields too often relies on book reviews that pointed out that the post-Slaughterhouse Five novels fell short. It is not unusual for books to garner a high reputation after publication that belies the initial reviews. Breakfast of Champions, for example, is very highly regarded by many readers, but Shields makes it sound decidedly second-rate. I know Vonnegut himself talked negatively about that novel, but authors are never the final arbiter of a book's success.Read more ›
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