The Lives of Billy Pilgrim, Kilgore Trout, and Eliot Rosewater by Way of Kurt Vonnegut

August 8, 2012

Want to know the difference between Charles Shields’ Vonnegut bio And So it Goes and Greg Sumner’s hybrid bio/lit crit Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels (out in paperback this November)? Then check out this comparative essay in New Politics.

“In contrast to Shields, Sumner sees only the overwhelming decency of Vonnegut, who, he writes, believed that heroism is making peace with our tragic limitation, acting with decency and caring for those around us.” (40) He does recognize Vonnegut’s anxieties as being lonely and isolated. Vonnegut frequently refers to the “great American experiment with rootlessness “and the observation that he “did not think himself very good in life” and suffered from a “perpetual lack of confidence in his creative powers.” There were also suicide attempts and nervous breakdowns.

Both of these books present a complicated man, with great strengths and several flaws. For those interested in the life and times of Vonnegut, I recommend them both.”

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