The author of “Cat’s Cradle,” “Slaughterhouse 5,” and “Breakfast of Champions,” who died in 2007, was frustrated by his standing in American letters and felt he was perceived as a science-fiction writer, one not warranting a dictionary entry.
But Vonnegut’s two-dozen novels and story collections spoke to the human condition and humorously showed some of the absurdities of post-war America. Vonnegut was shaped by two key experiences in his 20s: his mother’s suicide, and surviving the bombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war.
Biographer Charles Shields, who previously told the story of Harper Lee in “Mockingbird,” describes his subject, whom he got to know well, as a “disenchanted American.”
The author of the authorized ‘And So It Goes — Kurt Vonnegut: A Life’ spoke to Reuters about the author’s personality and legacy.
Q: How did this project get started?
A: “We began corresponding in the summer and fall of 2006. Then the phone calls and postcards started. He would call late at night after he’d had a couple, it sounded like. The first time I met him he wanted to start talking right away about his childhood, his family, his resentments as a teenager. So I started writing like mad. The success of our phone calls depended on what kind of mood he was in. Vonnegut was a moody man, a little thin-skinned.”