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I realized all this when I worked in a bookstore for a year, but it still makes me sad.
November 30, 2001 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I realized all this when I worked in a bookstore for a year, but it still makes me sad. Who do you think is writing the classics of tomorrow today?
posted by hellinskira (65 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
excellent article, and too true.
posted by moz at 1:32 PM on November 30, 2001


It's a hell of a question: in the US I'd vote for Roth, Bellow, Selby jr. Leonard Gardner's Fat City is an underground classic already, I don't know if he's dead.
Bukowski used to write great stuff. Brodkey, too.
Among younger authors, today, maybe Paul Auster (THe Invention of Solitude), David Foster Wallace (definitely the LBJ story from Girl with Curious Hair). Anyway they have great potential.
Among the recently deceased, of course Carver.
And even he died not-so-recently, Delmore Schwartz -- In Dreams Begin Responsibilities is a true classic
posted by matteo at 1:35 PM on November 30, 2001


Bukowski and Brodkey are already dead of course, it's not clear from my post sorry.
posted by matteo at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2001


George Orwell wrote about the trashiness of popular literature in "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" 70 years ago. (No, it's not the focus of the book at all, but I was just reading it recently and the scenes in the bookshop stuck with me)

"No style" writing has sold better than "High style" writing for more than a century (and, I'd say, for much longer than that). It doesn't mean the death of literature nor of style.

Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Umberto Eco, A.S. Byatt; these are four contemporary authors who write in the "high style" and whose works are well-received (both critically and with the public). Heck, they even make MOVIES out of 'em.
posted by bcwinters at 1:39 PM on November 30, 2001


Oh man, if you've got any info about Gardner, send it.

I don't think he's dead. But I've never been able to find anything else by him except that one awesome book.
posted by spslsausse at 1:41 PM on November 30, 2001


I think the phenomenon discussed in the article has an analog in every creative endeavor.
posted by marknau at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2001


A pertinent excerpt from Book Lovers' Quarrel, by Laura Miller:

"America's book culture too often seems composed of two resentful camps, hunkered down in their foxholes, lobbing the occasional grenade at each other and nursing their grievances. One side sees itself as scorned by a snooty self-styled elite and the other sees itself as keepers of the literary flame, neglected by a vulgarian mainstream that would rather wallow in mediocrity and dreck. Each side remains exquisitely sensitive to perceived rejection from the other, and the fact that one is often characterized as female and the other as male resonates with the edgy relations between the sexes of late. This divide in the reading public is also a place where the submerged class anxieties of American life flare up. Conversations about books are often rife with silly agendas, each speaker intent on indicating just how high (or, in the case of contrarians, low) his or her brow can go. It's astonishing sometimes how dismissive and venomous readers can be when talking about authors they don't like, or think they don't like."
posted by Carol Anne at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2001


bukowski will never be recognized by the mainstream. he remains one of my favorite authors mainly because of the realism of his work. everything doesn't necessarily work itself out in the end, and his work states that as well as anyone else i've ever read.

thing is ... no 35 y/o yuppie wants to read about an alcoholic detective that can't win like in 'pulp' or a pathetic reject from the projects in his classic , practically autobiographical 'ham on rye.' the majority of 'readers' that buy shit like john grisham want everything wrapped up in a neat package after 400 pages. nothing challenging.

wow. just like film and music these days.
posted by aenemated at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2001


Sometimes [the suthors write] in choppy sentence fragments. Other times with no verbs. Or maybe. Single. Words.

Worst. Article. Ever.

No, just kidding. But I dunno .. John Irving sells well, and he tends to violate all six of the "Keys to a No-Style Bestseller". Although I agree with some of this article, it seems akin to saying "Britney Spears", N'Sync" and "Backstreet Boys" all sell well, therefore all bestselling music is bland.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2001


There are few authors whose books I will pick up word unread, but some future "classic" authors:
+Don DeLillo
+Michael Chabon
+Umberto Eco
+John Updike
+Kurt Vonnegut
+Neil Gaiman -- for his Sandman series -- sure, it's a graphic novel, but who's to say that won't be a respected medium someday? ...OK, a lot of people. His American Gods is great, too.
+Douglas Adams, similarly, once sci fi gets respect.

That's actually a good side question: will more genres be recognized as worthy of being called "classic," or must that refer only to more mainstream, established areas of literature?
posted by me3dia at 2:23 PM on November 30, 2001


In fifty years, our grandchildren will be studying the works of
Miguel Esteves Cardoso.
posted by ColdChef at 2:37 PM on November 30, 2001


The problem is that people have attempted to turn literature into pop culture, and things that are easier to read will be read by more people; hence, books that aren't too great will sell well. John Seabrook, who writes for the New Yorker, elaborated on this in his book Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, The Marketing of Culture. "High culture" such as literature is gradually being "dumbed down" (for lack of a better term) to appeal to the masses. I blame Oprah. Jonathan Franzen is a good example of someone who had the chance to make a lot of money, but refused to have his work "dumbed down". Of course, he sold a lot of copies because of that. :)

There are still a lot of great writers around. I would concur with the previous example of Don DeLillo. Bret Easton Ellis, although somewhat notorious because of the success of American Psycho, is excellent as well. Rick Moody is worth checking out also. There's still hope for literature.
posted by spyke at 2:39 PM on November 30, 2001


Yep. Top 40 music sucks. So do Grisham novels.

You gots to search for the good stuff, just like with music.

I was also a big Buk reader, and I don't know that I agree that he's not widely accepted. Ya can't swing a dead lit major without hitting a closetful of Septuagenarian Stew.

I wholeheartedly agree with DeLillo being named. Add Kenzaburo Oe too. And I have to include Haruki Murakami.

Neil Gaiman, I would agree, created something beyond literature with Sandman. His novels, however, haven't lived up to that promise as far as I'm concerned. American Gods was closer, but not quite there.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2001


I'll admit I bought "The Corrections" after I heard Franzen said no thanks to Oprah. But then he took it all back on Good Morning America, so I burnt the book.
posted by hellinskira at 2:54 PM on November 30, 2001


me3dia: I'd say that sci-fi as a genre has done fairly well in breaking out of its ghetto to become "literature." Heinlein & LeGuin are on high school reading lists, for example. Samuel Delany's work sometimes has a Pynchon-like density and complexity. Iain Banks is respected both as a sci-fi author and a somewhat "academic" novelist.

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you mean in your last sentence though; surely something has to be "established" before it can be considered "classic," no?

Sci-fi hasn't been around that long (a century?) and I think it has certainly had its share of "high style" authors. (I hesitate to use that term, I just mean "high style" in the way that the original article we were discussing does)
posted by bcwinters at 2:56 PM on November 30, 2001


Saul Bellow? Brett Easton Ellis? Spare me.

What about Andrea Barrett, Joan Didion, Barbara Gowdy, Pam Houston, Barbara Kingsolver, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Ruth Ozeki, Jane Smiley and Amy Tan? Or do they not count, being women?
posted by rdc at 3:13 PM on November 30, 2001


Coldchef:

But Miguel's greatest work is not yet compleate. His 2732 page masterpiece "My MetaFilter, I Love Thee So", a collection of his every post to both MeFi, MeTa (and any future MeBrand, possibly even including MeToo© AOL).

Well I'd buy it. (but which genre would it be?)
posted by nedrichards at 3:22 PM on November 30, 2001


Saul Bellow? Brett Easton Ellis? Spare me.

Snarky much?
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2001


I second the mention of Michael Chabon, above. "Kavalier and Klay" obliterates so many of its contemporaries.

rdc: they should definitely count. Well, some of them, at least. Give Lahiri a few years to show us what else she can do (though she's off to a good start). Amy Tan seems to have fallen off a bit (though correct me if I'm wrong). Kingsolver has a great chance of "staying," if she avoids the "Oprah pick" stigma that so many world-weary critics seem leery of (her "Oprah pick" book was terrific). I might add Francine Prose to your list, though her audience might be too narrow for her to be considered "great."

hellinskira: be sure to check this out.
posted by arco at 3:39 PM on November 30, 2001


Doesn't popular writing more or less reflect the culture that consumes it? One would expect that novels from the late 20th and early 21st centuries would be more concise and less wordy than their earlier counterparts, at least in popular American writing. We speak more concisely, we want to get right to the point without laboring over superfluous words and phrases, and so our literature mirrors that. We're the "can't waste any time" culture.

How many times have you heard someone say "Gee, I'd love to sit down and read a book, but I haven't got the time." Frankly, I'm surprised any books get sold at all any more.

It puts me in mind of a short story I read many years ago, where so much information was put out that it had to be condensed so people could digest it, and it got to the point where a single letter represented the day's information. I can't put my finger on the author or the story, but I know some of you must have read it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:44 PM on November 30, 2001


For me the best thing about this article was that it dissed Strunk and White. If there ever was a book that deserves less praise than it gets, it's that fussy little bowl of Chicken Strunk for the Soul.
posted by rodii at 3:50 PM on November 30, 2001


Kazuo Ishiguro, perhaps? remains of the day is an outstanding book.

perhaps any one of these booker prize winners is worth consideration. you can browse other book awards here.

when I was growing up, any caldecott medal or newbery award winner was instantly worth looking over. speaking of which, I give my highest recommendation to holes by louis sachar.
posted by rebeccablood at 3:55 PM on November 30, 2001


I recently read this article in The Atlantic about Alice Munro: "Alice Munro is the living writer most likely to be read in a hundred years".
posted by mmarcos at 4:06 PM on November 30, 2001


I think it's obvious that the best novels of our time will be created by the writers of nanowrimo.
posted by dogwelder at 4:06 PM on November 30, 2001


Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I'm a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in toungues, a senator drunk on filibuster. I've got Tourette's. My mouth won't quit though mostly I whisper or subvocalize like I'm reading aloud, my Adam's apple bobbing, jaw muscle beaing like a miniature heart under my cheek, the noise suppressed, the words escaping silently, mere ghossts of themselves, husk empty of breath and tone (If I were a Dick Tracy villian, I'd have to be Mumbles.) In this diminished form the words rush out of the cornucopia of my brain to course over the surface of the world, tickling reality like fingers on piano keys. Caressing, nudging. They're an invisible army on a peacekeeping mission, a peaceable horde. They mean no harm. They placate, interepret, massage. Everywhere they're smoothing down imperfections, putting hairs in place, putting ducks in a row, replacing divots. Counting and pplishing the silver. Patting old ladies gently on the behind, eliciting a giggle. Only -- here's the rub -- when they find too much perfection, when the surface is already buffed smooth, the ducks already orderly, the old ladies complacent, then my little army rebels, breaks into the stores. Reality needs a prick here and there, the carpet needs a flaw. My words begin plucking at threads nervously, seeking purchase, a weak point, a vulnerable ear. That's when it comes, the urge to shout in the church, the nursery, the crowded movie house. It's an itch at first. Inconsquential. But that itch is soon a torrent behind a straining dam. Noah's flood. That itch is my whole life. Here it comes now. Cover your ears. Build an ark.

"Eat me!" I scream.

Motherless Brooklyn
posted by raaka at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2001


I generally agree with the article, but Sue Grafton shouldn't be on the no-style list. Also I think that people who can't appreciate both plot-driven pop novels and the soul-shaking stuff the author describes are doing themselves a disservice.
posted by chaz at 4:24 PM on November 30, 2001


Not a fan of DeLillo at all (don't like Pynchon either, preferring Richard Powers and Neal Stephenson for that flavor), but I think that there are writers out there that help balance the teeter-totter against the Grishams and Clancys who rule the marketplace (I would include such as Kingsolver, Rick Bass, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Isabel Allende, William Least Heat Moon, Harlan Ellison, Umberto Eco, Nicholson Baker, and the late Iris Murdoch). They don't sell as well, of course, and probably never will.

If you want to be a well-paid hack--and there's nothing wrong with that--all I personally ask is that you try to be the best hack you possibly can, to give your readers their money's worth; if you aspire to something more than that, I salute you. Two very different things, with some overlap.
posted by rushmc at 4:31 PM on November 30, 2001


Or do they not count, being women?
Well, I wouldn't count them... because, with the exception of Munro, none of the writers you list (with whom I am familiar) ever struck me as being that amazing. Margaret Atwood, however, there's a woman who does magic with her books.

I think Bellow is definitely literature/classic material, too, in spite of my own personal impatience with a lot of his Big Idea sort of philosophical stuff.

And Mr. Updike makes my heart go pitter-pat.

(on preview: rushmc, i don't get the gen'l adoration of DeLillo either, and see your Nicholson Baker & raise you a Martin Amis.)
posted by Sapphireblue at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2001


The caption: Best-selling authors like Terry McMillan are richer than ever. So why is prose from these pros so poor? (Noah Berger - AP/File Photo)

The article: Cormac McCarthy, Terry McMillan and Michael Chabon are among today's best-known stylists.

While we're lamenting the death of good writing, should we also mourn the death of good copyediting?
posted by feckless at 5:05 PM on November 30, 2001


Heinlein?

+Kurt Vonnegut!?

+Douglas Adams, similarly, once sci fi gets respect!?!

What kinda bland-on-bland middle-of the-mediocre-road illiterate elevator music gas you fucked up crackheads huffin'?
These are all--the Heinlein who wrote Beyond This Horizon excepted--best selling hacks of one lower order or another...
Blame Oprah?
I blame you.
Pa-thetic!
posted by y2karl at 5:12 PM on November 30, 2001


How is it that an article which bashes the new trends in the art of literature for simplifying the genre and praises past works as greater than anything that is today or will come from today, is received so much warmer than an article which bashes the new trends in the art of music for simplifying the genre and praising past works, which is deemed as being an obvious put-on, a satire, and entirely false. Not to mention racist, biggoted and one sided. Why isn't anyone trashing the Post for insetting a photo of a black woman as an example of a No-Style writer? Did someone forget to tell me that art is relative when it comes to music, but absolute when it comes to literature?
posted by tomorama at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2001


I really have to say that Sherman Alexie is one of the best writers I've ever come across. His stories communicate simultaneously on so many different levels, yet he remains surprisingly unknown.
posted by Poagao at 5:22 PM on November 30, 2001


These are all--the Heinlein who wrote Beyond This Horizon excepted--best selling hacks of one lower order or another...

You mean like Dickens?
posted by feckless at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2001


y2karl, do you plan on suggesting some alternatives, or just chewing the HTML scenery with fancy fonts?

bcwinters: .Granted, sci fi does have a good amount of history and some highly respected writers, but in the grand scheme of literature, it's still a new kid on the block, not very seriolusly regarded by scholars. HP Lovecraft, Jules Verne are good examples of early pioneers, and in addition those you pointed out I think Adams, Frank Herbert and Ray Bradbury are good bets for future classic authors in the genre.
posted by me3dia at 5:38 PM on November 30, 2001


Nice catch, tomorama.
posted by rushmc at 5:48 PM on November 30, 2001


Thanks for mentioning Alexie; I had forgotten how much I liked his work.

I really really want to add Julian Barnes to the list, but, well, I can't fully justify it. (Though Flaubert's Parrot is first-rate.) Someone mentioned Paul Auster, and I'm reminded of how wonderfully strong his sense of style is. (But not to the point of distraction, a la writers such as Jeanette Winterson.) Moon Palace (Auster) is one of my fay-vor-ite books. Will he still be read in x years? Hell, I'd be happy if he was more widely-read today.
posted by arco at 5:57 PM on November 30, 2001


tomorama: it's more like an author comparing top 40 music of today (brittney spears) to that of the past (frank sinatra) and finding that the present day comes up short (which, in this case, it would.)

unfortunately he uses hemingway, whom I consider to be over-rated, as his benchmark, but it is an obvious choice for comparison of "stripped down style".

it would be interesting to compare the best-seller lists of the 20s, 30s, 40s with those of today and see just how many "good" writers were widely read at the time. I suspect that the level was a bit higher, actually, but you'd have to compare to really know whether that's true.
posted by rebeccablood at 5:59 PM on November 30, 2001


If we're speaking of sf as a genre (or paraliterature, as I believe Samuel Delany prefers), it only separated out from general literature around the 1910s or '20s, when Hugo Gernsback (the man who invented the word "television") started up the first sf magazine, Amazing. In other words, people had been writing what we'll euphemistically call "imaginative fiction" for centuries (Swift, François Rabelais, Kepler, Kipling, Conan Doyle) but it wasn't ghettoized yet into something separate from literature. Verne and Wells mark the point at which the rhetoric of science and technology begins to be used as the underpinning of imaginative fantasies.

Though sf-as-genre has always been a place you could get away with bad writing (the idea's the thing, you're supposed to grumble as you hack through Hogan or Forward or Arsen Darnay), there have also been "high style" writers: Samuel Delany, Thomas Disch, John Crowley, Roger Zelazny, Alfred Bester, William Gibson, and others I can't recall at the moment. (Note that most of these writers started after the 1950s.)
posted by retrofut at 6:00 PM on November 30, 2001


Umberto Eco

"Baudolino". Not surprisingly I've found this work by Eco on Amazon. Surprisingly it's only available as used copy, maybe it wasn't translated and it's an italian copy.

The plot: Baudolino is the son of some peasants living in northern Italy during the era of Frederick The RedBearded.
His culture is poor as he is , but he's rich with imagination. One day the Emperor Barbarossa , while on his travels, meets Baudolino and decides to buy him from his family ; Baudolino is given the opportunity of learning to read and write with the guide of prominent teachers and travels the world becoming a Machiavelli ante-litteram , creating incredible tales and plotting simple but clever plans to help Barbarossa during his wars.

Maybe this isn't the best work from Eco but It was really a very enjoyable reading..if you liked "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follet you'll enjoy this Umberto Eco work and you'll probably like it much more then Follet one ; personally I think Baudolino is much more intriguing. "Baudolino" also manages to make the reader think more about why something is written and how reality can be "shaped" on a book in a useful (for somebody) way.
posted by elpapacito at 6:06 PM on November 30, 2001


tomorama: “new trends in the art of literature”

The subject of this essay — bad writing — is not a new trend. Hip hop, conversely, is. Also, the writer of the WP essay is staff writer, while the writer of the VV essay is a loveseat in Williamsburg.
posted by raaka at 6:31 PM on November 30, 2001


You want style? You want Iceberg Slim.
posted by hellinskira at 6:34 PM on November 30, 2001


One (I) could (would) argue that a lot of hip-hop is bad music...
posted by tomorama at 6:39 PM on November 30, 2001


Would Kim Stanley Robinson be considered part of the stripped-down gang? I always thought his work a cut above most Sci-fi writers, in that he seems to slip in between colloquial and poetic prose. Then again, I always thought Gibson overrated.

As far as fantasy goes, there is only one: Tolkien. I can't read anyone else in the genre because I'm spoiled.
posted by Poagao at 7:07 PM on November 30, 2001


in the article: "Cormac McCarthy, *Terry McMillan* and Michael Chabon are among today's best stylists."

under the accompanying photo: "Best-selling authors like *Terry McMillan* are richer than ever. So why is prose from these pros so poor?"

The WP owes Terry McMillan a correction at the VERY least.
posted by realjanetkagan at 7:18 PM on November 30, 2001


oh, how bout Italo Calvino?
posted by Kafkaesque at 7:18 PM on November 30, 2001


Roger Zelazny was "just a sci-fi/fantasy writer," but he had a style of writing that has always blown me away. I agree with Raymond Carver.
posted by Hildago at 8:22 PM on November 30, 2001


^ Chandler. So I'm drunk.
posted by Hildago at 8:23 PM on November 30, 2001


Michael Cunningham.
posted by verdezza at 8:42 PM on November 30, 2001


I think it's all "pop". Hindsight 20/20 and all that.

People endlessly retreading the past as The Great Thing Which Is Now Lost instead of appreciating what's current on its own merits, like whether you liked it or not.

Are we doomed to constantly praise The Good Old Days instead of That Thing Right Now Is Pretty Neat?
posted by owillis at 9:03 PM on November 30, 2001


Style is really a moot point. Writers of substance write the only honest way they can: telling the story the way they must tell it.

If for Tom Pynchon that means writing in in-spiraling narrative, or for Cormac McCarthy filling an entire page with one sentence about buffalo, or whatever "not-to-the-point" brand of "style" creative writing instructors would like to pick away at -- essentially because the source of such writing is beyond their means -- then so be it.

Style is a function of a writer's vision. Through whatever wild glasses that person sees the world, how they express their ideas, big or small, how they put the words in order, and what words they use -- that constitutes their "style." Because Pynchon's world is its own bright paranoid place, and Don DeLillo's as well, and Woolf, and Palahniuk, and anyone who's ever made you forget about words and hear their voice in your skull. As a writer, if you have to ask about it, you'll never know.

What's sad is when a writer recognizes that they have no vision. That's a hack. You could write Harlequin romance novels, one a month, your whole life, and if you say with sincerity that sweaty kisses are your passion, vision and raison d'etre -- then rock on. That's your voice and your world. Otherwise, what's the point? You're just writing ad copy.

Asimov: There are a hell of a lot easier ways to make a living than writing.
posted by spslsausse at 9:53 PM on November 30, 2001


Coldchef, you really oughta get your head out of Miguel's butt. You're going to suffocate up there, laddie!

Now living writers? I'd have to go with Delillo too, along with Pynchon, Eco and Rushdie, pretty pedestrian list, I know, but some of my faves. Buk, dead, sadly, but he's gotta be on the list.

I never understood why people have this thing against Vonnegut.

The oft-cited David Foster Wallace is amusing at best, I reckon, but little more. All smoke and no fire. Brett Easton Ellis : it is to laugh. Harlan Ellison I read as a teenager, and I think that was the best place to leave him, for me at least. Italo Calvino - maybe. He's my other favorite Italian.

I am inordinately fond of Chuck Palahniuk, and William Gibson and Neal Stephenson (I'm just reading Snow Crash for the first time after reading all his other stuff), along with some of the others mentioned in this thread, but much as I enjoy their work, I'm not sure they measure up well to some of the others mentioned above.

There are so many others...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:16 PM on November 30, 2001


Love DeLillo. (His Harper's piece on 9-11 is easily the most outstanding I've read in the budding genre, if you can call it that.) But what about writers who aren't so postmodern? Larry Brown, say. And he's a former fireman! Talk about potentially trendy.
posted by raysmj at 10:36 PM on November 30, 2001


Since I was asked: Jonathan Carroll, Philip K. Dick, Joan Didion, Patricia Highsmith, Ursula LeGuin, Tim Powers, Cordwainer Smith, Jack Vance, Eudora Welty, Gene Wolfe all come to mind. Calvino, DeLillo, Kundera, Pynchon do so, too.

I find Adams, Bradbury. Herbert--most of me3dia's science fiction choices, in fact--to be famous franchises, best selling lazybones but not Great Writers. Heinlein is no Dickens: more Michener, Lew Wallace or Tom Clancy. Vonnegut is so formulaic. How many books of Lew Wallace can you name off the top of your head? A lot of people still like James Branch Cabell. Jurgen was considered one for the ages. How many here have read it?

arco's list sounds interesting and reminds me of how llittle I've read and, too, that there is no homogenous market, only niches--everyone defines their 'unique individuality' against a mass culture that exists only in the aggregate. There are simply too many writers and readers alive today to ever allow for a common culture anymore, even among the academe. So making a list of 'classics' is self defeating. But one can still tell style and craft.
posted by y2karl at 11:16 PM on November 30, 2001


Hacks? In the literary world?

Heaven forfend!

…Needless to say, there's plenty of fine writing out there—at least enough to balance out all the garbage. You just have to know where to look.
posted by Down10 at 12:38 AM on December 1, 2001


After reading a few essays by Thomas Carlyle, I tossed my copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style into the trashcan, so that it could no longer be consumed by the eyes of readers, instead transporting it to a place where worms and micro-organisms might feast upon it. I should have saved them from its bitter taste, and instead burned it, but I didn't want to pollute the air.

There's a difference between the stripped down writing of Ernest Hemingway and the generic indifference of many of today's authors. I find that there are many books I enjoy that aren't on the best seller's lists yet perhaps should be. And these books aren't always simple prose; sometimes it takes some thought to read them. The pleasure isn't strictly in the plot, and its devices. It's also in the way the tale is told.

Their charm is in the overall experience. Colson Whitehead's debut novel The Intuitionist made me wonder if this was my world he was writing about, or another that differed in subtle but important ways. Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn is intensely amusing. Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay was difficult to put down. John Fante is sadly ignored.

Science Fiction and fantasy are in good hands with writers like Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Howard Waldrop, Bradley Denton, Gene Wolfe, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Dan Simmons. Those authors are doing much more than just trying to push forth a plot.

The journey to any destination can be much more enjoyable than just a successful arrival at the ending. Short, clipped sentences devoid of both character and challenges to the reader might land someone's story on the best seller's list. But how often are those books remembered, loved, and returned to on another day?
posted by bragadocchio at 12:53 AM on December 1, 2001


The article lost me when the author started using Hemingway as a gold standard. (*nods appreciatively to rcb*)

I second me3dia's Neil Gaiman nomination, but *only* for his graphic novels (for which the artists with whom he works also deserve major kudos) - his prose is pretty ordinary, even though he tells a good story. (Ah, I see Kafkaesque and I agree on this.) It's WAY past time that comics got some respect! Yes indeedy to those who nominated Roger Zelazny, too.

Rodii: what would you recommend in place of S&W?

Since nobody else has gone here (probably because the article was about novelists) I'll make some poetry recommendations: A.E. Stallings, Brad Leithauser, Mark Jarman and Andrew Hudgins.
posted by sennoma at 7:12 AM on December 1, 2001


y2karl:
tim powers is a fun read and all, but hardly a 'Great Writer'
phil dick has neat ideas, but he's a drag to read so I wouldn't call him a 'Great Writer' either

my votes for (those which i don't think are repeats of pther peoples choices):

orhan pamuk (the black book in particular)
mark danielewski (house of leaves)
borges

for poetry: ashbery, lyn hejinian, george oppen

clarice lispector for short fiction/essay things

some of these folks are dead of course
posted by juv3nal at 2:16 AM on December 2, 2001


argh. forgot paul bowles. only recently dead so he counts.
posted by juv3nal at 2:20 AM on December 2, 2001


I prefer the Readers Digest versions!
posted by HTuttle at 5:25 AM on December 2, 2001


Martin Cruz Smith. Gorky park, Polar star, and Red square are some of my all time favorites.
posted by keithl at 10:04 AM on December 2, 2001


Rodii: what would you recommend in place of S&W?

I wouldn't recommend anyone. Develop your own style by reading and writing, not by listening to some English teacher. Learning from S&W is like learning to play alto clarinet so you can play the inner parts in a marching band. I guess that's a worthy occupation, but I'd rather be Sonny Rollins

It would be fun to make up a list of anti-S&W style, though. bragadocchio mentions Carlyle; a good choice. I would add Edward Dahlberg, William Gaddis, Margaret Drabble, Daniel Pinkwater, Alexander Theroux.

By the way, someone mentions Iain ( ) Banks as an "academic" success. What's up with that? How are The Crow Road, Whit or Complicity "academic"?
posted by rodii at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2001


Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 100 years of solitude
Mario Vargas Llosa - The war of the end of the world
William Gibson - Neuromancer
Umberto Eco - Foucalt's Pendulum
Julio Cortazar - Hopscotch
posted by signal at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2001


James Ellroy's writing has an undeniable style. He sells a lot of books.

LA Confidential, American Tabloid, The Black Dahlia

All good.
posted by dr_emory at 2:37 PM on December 2, 2001


dude, eva brann! she's a tutor at my school, and she's absolutely brilliant. the author of this articule couldn't have chosen a better person to interview. mad props.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:59 PM on December 2, 2001


ha ha! i knew there had to be another johnny on here somewhere.

mad props from santa fe.
posted by clockwork at 8:16 PM on December 2, 2001


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