Kurt Vonnegut Jr (1922-2007) is my favourite author, and probably my favourite artist of any kind. The wisdom and humanity in his work never cease to move me, and the possession I'd save in a fire is my autographed copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, his best-known (and best) novel. It's a bit stalkerish how I got the autograph, but I work as a journalist, and I think all journalists have something of the stalker in them.
In 2005 I was in New York City, and I found Vonnegut's house, having seen a news photograph of it taken a year or two before when a fire broke out there after he fell asleep smoking a cigarette. I went to a nearby bookstore, bought a 25th-anniversary hardback copy of Slaughterhouse-Five (not bad as its 25th anniversary was 1984), went to a post office and paid for the postage back to me, waited on the street outside his home for 20 minutes or so on the offchance he'd come out for a stroll, then dropped it through his mailbox and resumed walking around New York with mouth agape. When I got back from the US the book was waiting for me, complete with Vonnegut's hand-written address in the "sender" section of the envelope.
I later found out that he had requested fans NOT to mail him copies of books to be signed, so I'm very grateful that he took the time to sign and post mine.
Vonnegut wrote a series of great essays for the monthly magazine In These Times, the last of which can be found here.
My favourite quote from him is this: "We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."
- Panasonic DMC-TZ6