My best friend and I took a snow day in San Diego. Not that there was any actual snow; in fact the weather for this late January day would have been perfect in July or August. But since our weekend calendars are full of important tasks and necessary chores for the next six or seven weeks, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to be outside and do nothing. Except read.
On the sundeck of the Hotel Del Coronado, I reached the halfway point of And So It Goes, the biography of Kurt Vonnegut by Charles J. Shields. The book is well written and thoroughly engaging. As a Vonnegut fan since the early 1980s it was a treat to get a life at home context for the writing and publication of his novels. Shields gave new insight into the Vonnegut reaction to critics and fans as each new work was published.
Even though I've read Slaughterhouse-Five more than a dozen times and Cat's Cradle at least a half-dozen, Shields presented new material around the creation and publication of these masterworks. He also deepened my understanding of the import of Player Piano and Mother Night to both Vonnegut's career and American fiction of the 20th Century.
As the anniversary of the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945 approaches, the diligent research Shields put into his book helps readers grasp the role of that event in shaping Vonnegut as a writer and as a man. I would recommend this biography to anyone interested in reading about Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., or curious about the role of science fiction in critiquing culture.