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Book reading: “And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life”

During one of only two interviews Charles J. Shields conducted with novelist Kurt Vonnegut for a biography, the author of “Slaughterhouse Five” told Mr. Shields to look up his name in the dictionary. He couldn’t find it, and Vonnegut then told him to look up “Jack Kerouac,” for whom Mr. Shields found an entry. Vonnegut died before Mr. Shields could gather anymore such observations, and his wife and son refused to cooperate with Mr. Shields’ biography. The product, says David L. Ulin of the Los Angeles Times, is a critical biography that is “largely vestigial” and that says little new about Vonnegut the man, other than he had a habit of losing his temper when forced to suffer distractions while writing. (What writer enjoys them?) While “And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life” is not profound, Mr. Shields’ own story — that of the biographer who lost his dibs on the biggest literary biography of the last 30 years — is quite interesting.

Mr. Shields reads Nov. 22 at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Phone: 202/364-1919


Performance: Cirque du Soleil: “Quidam”

Since its humble beginnings in Montreal in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has come to redefine the circus-going experience. The furthest thing from rustic or gaudy, the show uses no animals or sideshow-style freaks. Instead, Cirque’s performers are skilled acrobats, dancers, actors and musicians. “Quidam” tells the story of a young girl named Zoe who longs, as we all do, for a more interesting life. When reality fails to deliver her one, Zoe escapes into an alternate reality called Quidam, which is filled with the surreal characters that have made Cirque famous: a mischievous mohawked ringmaster named John, a guide for Zoe named the Target, and a slew of antagonists whose fight is more with themselves than Zoe.

Through Nov. 20 at the Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW.

Phone: 202/628-3200