>has died, and Monica Edinger offers a brief tribute to his impact on her “arty and alienated” group of high school chums. I never “got” Vonnegut the way many of my friends did, but I can certainly appreciate the way he pushed at the boundaries of science fiction to make us rethink it and literature in general in more expansive terms.
I wrote an article for SLJ a hundred years ago about “cult novels,” books that may or may not have had a wide audience but still seemed to speak to the kind of coteries Monica and I were both part of. They were books that made you and your friends feel like part of a special elect. Atlas Shrugged, Dune and The Lord of the Rings were big in that way; Monica also mentions Richard Brautigan, someone I remember Not Getting at all but I also knew he was Cool and therefore I should keep quiet. Who is speaking that way to teens today? Neil Gaiman is one I can think of, and I’m sure there is a whole canon of graphic novelists I just don’t know. I could also see M.T. Anderson getting that kind of readership but wonder if being published as a YA writer hurts more than it helps. Part of the appeal of cult writers is that you discover them without the apparent aid of adults (but bless the librarians who put them in our way), and the fact that a YA novel says, de facto, this is for you, can work both for and against a book’s appeal.