Saturday, January 14, 2012

MFA Greensboro Alum Steve Almond Reviews "And So It Goes," a biography of Kurt Vonnegut

'And So It Goes' by Charles Shield
Fascinating exploration of dark complexities and the literary influences of Kurt Vonnegut
by Steve Almond
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut had a chip on his shoulder when it came to the critics. Despite being one of the most popular writers of his generation, he routinely complained that his work was overlooked, or miscast as high-concept, middle-brow fiction.

The publication of Charles J. Shields’s fascinating new biography, “And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life,’’ probably won’t put this beef to rest, at least among his loyalists. But it does provide a definitive and disturbing account of the late author, whose ambition and talent transformed him from an obscure science fiction writer to a countercultural icon.

As he demonstrated in his bestselling Harper Lee biography “Mockingbird,’’ Shields is an exhaustive researcher with a knack for prose that is absorbing without being flamboyant. He captures the peculiar and troubling dynamics of the Vonnegut clan, in which Kurt, the youngest of three, “couldn’t seem to say anything important enough to get the attention he craved at home.’’ His mother, Edith, we learn, was a fragile and emotionally remote woman whose sanity dissolved along with the family fortune. She harbored dreams of becoming a writer on Cape Cod, before committing suicide at 56.

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