In her review of the posthumous John Updike collection Higher Gossip, New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani writes:
As for fellow American writers, Updike connects the dots between their life experiences and their artistic visions. He describes Kurt Vonnegut’s view of the universe as “basically atrocious, a vast sea of cruelty and indifference” — the legacy of witnessing the firebombing of Dresden firsthand during World War II.
But wait – what about this exchange between host Laura Sullivan and Charles Shields, the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, on NPR’s All Things Considered:
SULLIVAN: Slaughterhouse 5 was his greatest work – well, I guess that’s debatable – but it’s his most famous work and he really struggled to write it – I mean, it took him 20 years and he started and stopped and started again and it seems the biggest problem he had was this idea that he wasn’t – he didn’t actually see the bombing of Dresden – that he was just in the basement – he saw the before and the after . . .
SHIELDS: You’re absolutely right. The problem that he was facing was that he had no Act Two – he had an Act One and he had an Act Three. Kurt realized that he had an important story to tell, a moment in civilization and he was there for almost like the sacking of Troy but he missed the sacking of Troy – it was as if he’d arrived, slept through it, and then left again.
Which leaves Michiko Kakutani – wrong.