Kurt Vonnegut's Son Bashes Biography of His 'Bitter' Father
via The Guardian:
Last month Henry Holt and Co. published And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, by Charlie J. Shields. It was heralded as the "first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr."
But it already has one major detractor: Mark Vonnegut, the late author's son.
Shields--who also wrote a controversial bio of To Kill A Mockingbird's Harper Lee--found Vonnegut to be cruel to his first wife, prone to depression, and bitter toward the critics he felt never gave him his due. The book also alleges that the famously anti-war author had invested in Dow Chemical, a maker of napalm. In an interview with the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Shields said Vonnegut "was not the person I expected to meet."
The younger Vonnegut took exception to that, and after io9 published a story about the book and it's portrayal of the author, he sent them an e-mail disputing it--and he doesn't mince words. You can read the whole e-mail at this link, but here's the most pointed bit:
Shields had to ignore most of what I and other people who knew Kurt and most of what he read in the letters to come up with these shocking truths [emphasis his] about a beloved writer.
He also insists his father didn't own any Dow stock.
I've read interviews with Vonnegut where he's come off as weary, frustrated, and angry. He was so disillusioned with the war in Iraq that he said he wished Nixon were still president, in lieu of Bush. Nixon!
I don't know. I wasn't there. Vonnegut, to my mind, was brilliant, and most people who are brilliant are troubled. He didn't write Slaughterhouse-Five because of how happy he was with the world around him.
Then again, the truth hurts.
Regardless, this is why I don't read biographies. I can learn more about the man by reading his books.
To leave a comment