And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life - Charles J. Shields And So It Goes... is an in-depth biography in which Charles Shields does a solid job of humanizing a literary icon, exhaustively researched. This is the man, not just the writer, and that's a key difference to mark because this isn't about the work but the human being, in all his glory and failures, behind the work that made such an impact on 20th century literature.

I was in middle school when I first encountered Vonnegut: an uncle gave me a copy of Breakfast for Champions one Christmas and it was like a bomb exploded. This is what books could be like! Not too long ago a friend asked which author affected me most as a writer (not necessarily my actual writing but simply my horizons), and I answered without hesitation. Kurt Vonnegut.

In this biography, Shields doesn't shy away from the dark and dirty. Not only is the story of Vonnegut's life a rather depressing one, it turns out he was also kind of a dick. Would I have loved the chance to sit down and have a beer with him? Absolutely! Would I have wanted to be related to him or a close friend? Eh, probably not so much. Writers (and artists in general) are notoriously difficult people, often not the most stable or happiest people you'll encounter in the world, and yet while it's clear from this reading that Vonnegut was a difficult man beset by demons, there are many examples of the heart beneath the surface and, alas, the hurt that comes with it.

Shields' book is a good study of Vonnegut's life, delving deep and unflinching. Drawbacks exist, of course. For one, the narrative never really gains momentum and the whole book seems to plod along despite the wealth of material. There's a lack of intensity at times, which is a bit odd. Second, the ending is abrupt; Vonnegut's final days are given less than two pages and the last of the biography is simply the date he passed away. I remember where I was and what I was doing the day Kurt Vonnegut died, so while the man has gone, his influence remains; a few final words would've helped smooth out the ending.

Overall a great read for Vonnegut enthusiasts and likely a good choice for literary, history, and cultural enthusiasts. Recommended.