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Kurt Vonnegut's dark, sad, cruel side is laid bare -
December 4, 2011
"A new biography of acclaimed American author Kurt Vonnegut, beloved by fans worldwide for his work's warm humour and homespun Midwestern wisdom, has shocked many with a portrayal of a bitter, angry man prone to depression and fits of temper. The book on Vonnegut, who died in 2007, lifts the lid on the writer's private life, revealing a man far removed from the grandfather-like public figure his millions of devotees adored. And So It Goes was written by Charles Shields, who also wrote a controversial biography of Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird. The book paints a picture of a man who was often distant from his children, cruel to a long-suffering first wife, caught in an unpleasant second marriage and spent much of his later years depressed and angry. "Cruel, nasty and scary are the adjectives commonly used to describe him by the friends, colleagues, and relatives Shields quotes," wrote one reviewer, Wendy Smith, on the Daily Beast website. The New York Times reviewer, Chris Buckley, called Shields's portrayal "sad, often heartbreaking". Through novels such as The Sirens of Titan, Cat's Cradle and the classic Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut's career spanned five decades, often working in the science fiction genre, and catapulted him into the canon of great American writers. His work, while often dealing with tragedy, was famed for espousing humanitarian, even socialist values, and often had a strong anti-war, anti-capitalist feel. It is full of references to the virtues of small-town life, volunteer firefighters and the Midwest, especially his home city of Indianapolis. Yet Shields's book is unsparing in its portrayal of Vonnegut's dark side. It reveals that the writer – whose experience as a PoW during the firebombing of Dresden scarred his psyche for life – had no qualms about investing in firms that made napalm or indulged in a host of other morally suspect activities. He fell out with friends, editors and relatives and had a shocking temper. In later...
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