My son and I spoke about Kurt Vonnegut on the drive to school this morning. At first, I was afraid that I didn't have a Vonnegut story for him (I'm middle-aged, so I've actually met a lot of the authors I admire), but, to my amazement, I had enough to say to get him to promise to read Slaughterhouse Five after the new Terry Prachet (you cannot believe how awesome it is to have a child who likes the same kind of fiction you do - the day he came home from school and said that 1984 was his favorite book, my heart jumped and melted simultaneously).
I read Slaughterhouse Five in high school while learning about science fiction and great American novels. I read it around the same time I read Catch 22 and thought it a much better book about the Vietnam War through the prism of WWII experiences. And when I look back on things, I realize just how influential and ground-breaking Vonnegut was in the 70's. There would be no Hitchhikers Guide without him.
He gave one of my writers a quote in the early 2000's and I used it to sell her novel, but one of the much younger editors at that house said, "Can't she get anybody else? Does anybody read Vonnegut any more?" and I was devastated.
I've always felt that an author who can transcend genre and make his work both literature and commerc1al fiction is a true genius. There are very few. Vonnegut was one of the best.