For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, Kurt Vonnegut brings to mind images of sit-ins, anti-war demonstrations, and those newsreels scenes associated with the social revolution from that era of Viet Nam, the Draft, and Nixon. We baby boomers of course also know Kurt Vonnegut for Slaughterhouse Five which was also a popular movie at that time.
So it comes as quite a surprise to discover that Kurt Vonnegut was actually more conservative and part of the “establishment” than his public persona portrayed. Rather than the wise shaman-like soothsayer who many in the ‘60s viewed as a spokesperson for the generation, Kurt Vonnegut was only a man, confused and lonely — a human being who had been traumatized by the ravages of war when he was a young man.
An artist and writer, yes, but Kurt Vonnegut was blocked for decades; he was unable to write from his heart, to air his own inner truths. We learn here in And So It Goes that Kurt Vonnegut was hardly able to lead himself let alone anyone else.
Biographer Charles J. Shields got to know Kurt Vonnegut in mid-2006, less than a year before the Mr. Vonnegut’s death. Kurt Vonnegut had been looking for a biographer amid new interest in his works because of an unpopular war, political corruption, and other issues similar to those in the 1960s. But also, he wanted a biographer most likely because at his age – in his eighties – he was looking for someone who could gather the pieces of his life together into one comprehensible whole.
Beginning the relationship through correspondence, Mr. Shields told the author that there would be others who "could cobble together a so-so version of your life" – something he said "will happen soon" because of renewed interest in the author. But Mr. Shields told him the he was "the guy for the job – for doing it right, that is" — citing his ability as a "good researcher and writer."
In these respects – research, writing, and getting it right – Charles J. Shields more than does the job of compiling the eighty-some years of Kurt Vonnegut’s life into one complete whole picture. Not an easy job either given the complicated personality of Kurt Vonnegut, his often-conflicting relationships and decisions, and the fact that Mr. Shields had only met with Mr. Vonnegut a couple of times before the octogenarian fell down the steps of his home, lay in a coma, and died in April, 2007.