The top headline in my home page's news feed this morning was the death of Kurt Vonnegut at age 84. Specifically, the headline read, "Kurt Vonnegut, Novelist Who Caught the Imagination of His Age, is Dead at 84."
How true that epitaph is.
I remember discovering Vonnegut in high school. His works were like nothing else I had read before. I immediately checked all of his books out of the library and gorged on them for weeks. It was one of the first times that I visually associated reading with feasting. I devoured and was sated. No, I was more than sated. I was stuffed full to bursting and exhausted with the knowledge that my brain would never be the same again.
His works spoke directly to me in ways that few other novels up to that point had. He wasn't simply picking up the conventions of storytelling to stand upon a platform and orate at me. He was dancing in frantic circles around me, his ideas screaming urgently for attention. He was a champion of kindness who knew nothing of preaching.
His writing also opened the idea that writing was an intrinsically creative endeavor and that the rules of grammar and writing were tools, not the actual materials with which the house was made. They were meant to serve the writing and when they didn't serve, they shouldn't be used.
I haven't read Vonnegut since my teenage years, but I can still clearly remember the thrill of discovery and, far more importantly, the connection forged with those pages. Vonnegut is one of the reasons that reading is a passion to me, and not simply a means of collecting information.