Not only is Vonnegut one of the greatest and most influential American writers of our time, he also won the 1978 writers' best friend/humanitarian award. Turns out, unlike most successful authors, Vonnegut went out of his way to help other, less successful authors.
While pursuing the Huffington Post this morning I found a link to this article, which details a great example of why I wish Vonnegut were my best friend.
In 1978 Nicola Nikolov immigrated to the US with the hopes of becoming a writer. That August he wrote letters to successful American authors, including Vonnegut, requesting feedback on his enclosed short stories. Nikolov saved his responses he received and needless to say most authors weren't of much help. (From John Cheever: "...I consider my judgement on anything but my own work to be worthless.")
However, Vonnegut not only went as far as critiquing Nikolov's writing, he also enclosed a check for the hopeful writer and his wife:
In an extraordinary, lengthy typed letter Vonnegut discussed the plight of the immigrant to the U.S. ("I would never urge anyone to come here, unless he were a world figure or multi-millionaire like Sozhenitzen") and the fiction writer in contemporary America: "the best books earn nothing, usually. There are supposedly, at any given time, no more than 300 people in this whole country who make their livings as self-employed writers. America has more admirals on active duty than that." Then, miraculously, Vonnegut agreed to read the proffered short stories. Further, in an act of profound kindness, Vonnegut enclosed an unsolicited check for the poverty-stricken Bulgarian with the "hope that you and your wife will spend it on a good supper and a bottle of wine. The America you find yourselves in is the America I have tried to describe in my books. It makes no sense. Nobody knows what it is. Anything can happen. Cheers, Kurt Vonnegut."
Dispite Vonnegut's efforts, Nikolov was never published in the US.